Media question Reinfeldt’s leadership

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's leadership abilities were criticised by the media on Friday after a scandal forced the resignation of his influential top aide.

Editorials in almost every Swedish newspaper on Friday raised questions about Reinfeldt’s recruiting abilities – in addition to his top aide, three of his ministers have resigned following scandals or disputes – and lack of action in the recent crisis.

“The main question concerns his leadership and judgement,” the country’s biggest quality daily Dagens Nyheter wrote in an editorial.

“During his (one-year) in power his abilities have been tested on several occasions and so far the results cannot be described as inspiring confidence,” it said.

State secretary Ulrica Schenström, 35, resigned on Thursday following a week of intense debate over tabloid pictures that showed her drinking and kissing a television reporter in a bar.

Media revealed the pair had drunk wine and beer for 945 kronor ($148 dollars), or the equivalent of 19 small glasses of wine.

Schenström was on call that evening and was as such in charge of coordinating Sweden’s reaction to a national emergency – a fact Reinfeldt only confirmed a week after the scandal broke and after she resigned.

The issue was particularly sensitive as the previous Swedish government was fiercely criticised for its slow response to the most recent national catastrophe – the 2004 Asian tsunami, in which 543 Swedes died.

Sweden’s second-biggest national quality daily, Svenska Dagbladet, criticised Reinfeldt for initially “sticking his head in the sand, angrily dismissing journalists’ questions and refusing to disclose whether Schenström was on call,” but acknowledged that he did the right thing by letting her go.

Regional daily Östersunds Posten said Reinfeldt would have been fired by now if he had been the head of a company.

“The business sector would never have accepted so many scandals and failures in the human resources department,” it said.

Schenström’s departure is seen as the heaviest blow to Reinfeldt’s

government so far.

He has rarely been seen in public without her and she is largely credited with helping him win the 2006 election, ousting the Social Democrats after 12 years in power.

Reinfeldt is described as cool, calculating and often monotone, while the energetic and extroverted Schenström was seen as a perfect complement to him.

He described her departure as “a personal tragedy for us both.”