Youth and diversity sets new government apart

James Savage
James Savage - [email protected]

The youngest Swedish prime minister for more than 80 years, Sweden's first gay minister, first black minister, and the first male minister to sport a pony tail - Sweden's new government contains plenty of novelties.


At the age of 41, Fredrik Reinfeldt is the third youngest Swedish prime minister ever. He is just a whisker older than Rickard Sandler, who assumed the role just before his 41st birthday in 1925. The new prime minister will be hoping to last a little longer than the eighteen months managed by his youthful predecessor. The youngest prime minister of all time was Robert Themptander, who came to power in 1884 at the age of 40.

Reinfeldt is also unusual for including in his government one of his predecessors as prime minister - Carl Bildt. The new foreign minister said that there were reasons not to appoint former heads of government as ministers, but after thinking over Reinfeldt's offer he had decided to accept.

"Both Fredrik and the other party leaders had agreed that this would work. Last night I arrived back from Rome, where I had met the Italian government, which actually contains two former prime ministers. I spoke with one of them, and he said it had worked very well."

New finance minister Anders Borg's pony tail will certainly set him apart from greyer European ministers at meetings in Brussels. More importantly, as the brains behind the Moderates' economic policy and a trained economist, he is being portrayed as a safe pair of hands.

"Anders Borg is a guarantee for stable finances," was how Fredrik Reinfeldt put it.

The new government also contains the first Swedish minister to be living in a same-sex relationship. The Centre Party's Andreas Carlgren, who has been made environment minister, came out in the 1990s and later entered a civil union with partner Tomas Harila.

The appointment of Liberal Nyamko Sabuni as integration minister is proving to be one of Fredrik Reinfeldt's most controversial choices. Sabuni, who moved to Sweden from Burundi at the age of 12, is the first black person to be appointed a minister in Sweden.

Her suggestion that all girls should undergo compulsory checks for genital mutilation (otherwise known as female circumcision) led to controversy. Sabuni was also attacked by Muslim groups for proposing a ban on headscarves for girls under 15 and the introduction of a specific mention of honour crimes in the criminal code.

Muslim commentator and author Kurdo Baksi slammed Sabuni's appointment:

"I am very disappointed that a person whom I consider to be an Islamaphobe has been appointed integration minister. It is a very poor start to a centre-right government's integration policy," he said.


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