Liberal Party spying scandal goes to court

Tuesday sees the beginning of the trial surrounding the spying scandal that rocked the Liberal Party in the lead up to last year's general election.

Among those charged is former party secretary Johan Jakobsson, who was Lars Leijonborg’s closest aide for many years.

A post-election analysis carried out by the party concluded that the scandal played a major part in the Liberals’ electoral collapse.

“Obviously there is no way the trial can be beneficial to the Liberal Party,” Olof Ruin, professor emeritus of political science, told news agency TT.

Somewhat ironically, Jakobsson has long been considered the architect of the party’s success in the 2002 election, when the Liberal Party gained 13.4 percent of the vote. In September 2006, however, the party shed almost 300,000 voters, dropping back to 7.5 percent.

According to an ethical commission established after the recent election, decision-making in the party was concentrated in the hands of just two to three people. Members had become apprehensive about opposing the party leadership.

The commission spoke of a “culture of silence” when it came to admitting to members admitting to their own faults, or pointing out the faults of others.

While Jakobsson is the central figure in the upcoming trial, Lars Leijonborg has not emerged from the debacle unscathed. The party’s Dalarna branch recently suggested that the party leader should step down and make way for a new chairman ahead of this September’s national conference.

But Olof Ruin believes that a change in party leader would damage the four-party governing alliance.

Politically, the party has undergone something of an identity change in recent times.

“The social liberal aspects have been pushed out of the way in favour of a stress on law and order. That has caused internal strain in the Liberal Party,” said Ruin.

The identity issue is significant in terms of Leijonborg’s survival, according to Olof Ruin. EU Minister Cecilia Malmström has said that she is not interested and Schools Minister Jan Björklund is ill-suited to the tastes of the social liberal wing.

“That makes it more difficult to replace Leijonborg, since he is a compromise candidate,” said Ruin.