Papers question Reinfeldt’s leadership

Leader writers in Swedish newspapers have been questioning Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's abilities as a leader, following the resignation on Wednesday of Defence Minister Mikael Odenberg.

Liberal paper Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s best selling broadsheet, said Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party was starting to look like the governing four-party Alliance’s weakest link. It wrote that Odenberg’s resignation “casts a shadow over Reinfeldt’s leadership.”

“Voters are naturally asking how the Alliance can stick together when even the Moderates can’t manage to do so internally,” the paper said. It added that Finance Minister Anders Borg was starting to look like the government’s strongman.

Sweden’s largest-selling tabloid, Aftonbladet, wrote that a Swedish defence minister had never resigned in such remarkable circumstances.

The paper, whose leader pages are controlled by union organization LO – the sister organization to the opposition Social Democrats – wrote that the resignation was “a dramatic failure for Reinfeldt, which raises serious questions about the prime minister’s leadership and fitness to govern.”

Rival tabloid Expressen, which has a liberal political standpoint, said that Odenberg’s dramatic resignation reflected badly on the government, but added that it was unavoidable that his pro-defence line would collide with Anders Borg’s determination to make savings in the budget. Expressen concluded that the right man won:

“Borg’s victory in the Moderates’ civil war means that the Right will no longer act as an uncritical supporting force for the military.”

Göteborgs-Posten, politically liberal, wrote that Odenberg had been a good defence minister, but added that it was good that he resigned. A minister who no longer believes in his task should resign, it argued.

Svenska Dagbladet, which describes itself as unaffiliated Moderate, said Reinfeldt’s credibility had been damaged:

“Fredrik Reinfedlt says he is convinced that one can make these kind of savings without putting the armed forces’ functions at risk, but it’s hard to see what he is basing his conviction on.”

The paper also praised Odenberg for resigning, saying he had shown the courage of his convictions.

Sydsvenskan, independent liberal, said that the Reinfeldt government would be remembered for its unwise choice of ministers. The paper added that the turmoil in the largest governing party meant “the whole Alliance government is walking on thin ice.”