Billström loses out in power struggle

Stockholm mayor Annika Billström has lost an influential position in the local Social Democratic Party, following a bitter power struggle with her party colleagues.

Billström had until this week occupied three posts – as mayor, chairman of the council and leader of the Social Democrat group at Stockholm City Hall. She lost the last of these positions at a party meeting on Monday night, after a long and often bitter fight which has often been conducted in full view of the media.

The leadership of the Social Democrat group has been won by Elisabeth Brandt Ygeman, who was named by a number of papers as Billströms “worst enemy”. The fact that Billström has kept two of her jobs is being seen as a partial victory for the mayor over those of her colleagues who complained of her dictatorial leadership style.

Pressure on Billström has been growing for several months, when she sacked the boss of the Stockholm water company. Her support for the controversial congestion charge scheme has also lost her support in some quarters.

Billström’s complaints that action aganist her was the result of bullying by men provoked a response from senior female Social Democrat council members, who said that they were also dissatisfied with her leadership.

Deputy Prime Minister Bosse Ringholm, who is chairman of the Social Democrats in the Stockholm district, says he believes the decision will draw a line under the local party’s internal arguments. Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said that by doing three jobs at once, Billström had faced an “unsuitable work situation.”

Billström herself has said that she does not see herself as a loser. “On the contrary,” she told Dagens Nyheter.

Speaking to The Local, Brandt Ygeman denied that there had been a power struggle at City Hall, although she admitted that there had been personal disagreements.

“It’s been hard for everyone involved,” she said.

“The important thing now is that we concentrate on questions of policy. The first thing we need to do is sit down and work out the best way to divide responsibility.”

She added that the two sides in the dispute would be able to work together “if we really try.”