Bodström ‘faces tough choice’ over leave rebuff

Bodström 'faces tough choice' over leave rebuff
Former justice minister and senior Social Democrat, Thomas Bodström, has said that he "has a tough choice" after being told that his application for a leave of absence from Sweden's Riksdag to spend time in the US had been rejected.

Writing on his blog on Wednesday after being told of the Riksdag party group leader’s decision to reject his application for parental leave, Bodström said:

“I think it is a shame that the Riksdag keeps to its restrictive line with regards to parental leave… The decision will mean that it will be more difficult for young people to combine working politically with a family.”

Social Democrat parliamentary group leader, Sven-Erik Österberg, confirmed the decision, explaining that there was no grounds to make an exception for Bodström.

Thomas Bodström, who has four children that attend school in the US, applied for a leave of absence shortly after the Swedish election. He has said that he wants his children to experience life in the US and that he intends to write a book comparing Swedish and American politics.

As his children are of school age, he can only be remunerated for 25 percent parental leave according to Social Insurance Agency (Forsäkringskassan) regulations, and the Riksdag decided not to make an exception from the parliamentary rules which stipulate that parental leave can only be granted on a full-time basis.

“I am now facing a difficult choice. Either I come home and continue my work in parliament or I relinquish my mandate,” Bodström wrote on Wednesday. “To give up my seat does not feel good, given that despite the election defeat there are so many people who voted for our party and for me personally… On the other hand, it neither feels great that my family should have to shorten their stay here.”

Bodström has previously been criticised by party colleagues and opponents for his busy schedule, and accused of lacking the time to adequately perform all of his commitments. Bodström has repeatedly rejected claims that he receives special treatment from the party hierarchy.

The former justice minister was this week also removed from his post as chair of the parliamentary justice committee in anticipation of the decision over his leave of absence.

Bodström’s US residence also meant that the Red-Green opposition lost his vote in the election of the Riksdag speaker, Per Westerberg, last week, as without an approved absence, a replacement could not be appointed.

Bodström stated on his blog that he will take a decision on how to proceed at the latest on Monday. The speaker has notified that the decision will be formally presented to the chamber for confirmation on October 19th.

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