The Social Democrats had come under intense pressure to reveal who was behind the campaign, in which a series of emails accused Reinfeldt of tax fraud, false financial declarations and of getting his political position only with his father’s influence.
The campaign has been going on for several weeks and began with messages to Reinfeldt asking for a comment on the allegations. Then the emails began streaming in to political journalists and newspapers’ letters pages.
Opposition leaders said that the campaign must have been orchestrated from above. But when the campaign was revealed – after parliament’s security department linked the IP address of the sender to Social Democrat HQ – it was dismissed as the action of a young loose canon.
The revelation that the sender was someone so senior led Prime Minister Göran Persson to tell journalists that he was “devastated” by what his colleague had done.
Having worked for the Social Democrats since 1999, Lindström has been a central figure in the party’s preparations for the election in September.
He was, until Friday, the chief analyst of voters’ intentions and was responsible for ordering and analysing polls, and then for presenting them to the party leadership.
Despite the Social Democrats’ initial refusal to reveal his identity, Lindström’s chances of remaining out of the public eye diminished rapidly on Friday.
“We have made clear to him that he won’t be able to remain anonymous, but it’s up to him,” said Göran Persson on Friday afternoon.
But within hours, a written apology from Mats Lindström appeared on the Social Democrats’ web site.
“I want to apologise to Fredrik Reinfeldt and his family, the Moderates and also my party friends in the Social Democrats,” wrote Lindström.
He said that he had felt “frustration” that “only the Social Democrats were being scrutinised in the media”.
“I understand now that my method was naturally deeply immoral and in conflict with the policies and rules of the job… This was my own initiative and I did it by myself. It is completely the wrong way to go about politics. I acted with enormous lack of judgement and am honestly sorry about it,” wrote Lindström.
Late on Friday, Göran Persson telephoned Fredrik Reinfeldt to apologise for the incident.
“I think that the culture we’re getting in modern Western politics, with a constant flood of rumours around political leaders, is destructive,” Persson told journalists.
“I myself have been exposed to this, perhaps more than any active Swedish politician, and I know how tough it is.”
Opposition leaders expressed their fears that the election campaign would be full of similar dirty tactics, but Persson stated his position:
“An election campaign should be very hard and tough, but only on issues. Never personally.”