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Swedish papers size up Håkan Juholt

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Swedish papers size up Håkan Juholt
13:02 CET+01:00
While much remains unknown about the man tipped to be the saviour of the crisis-laden Social Democrats, most Swedish newspapers were in agreement that the choice of Håkan Juholt represents a shift to the left for the party, although they differed on what that shift means for the party's future.

On Thursday, the party announced with great fanfare that Juholt, a mustachioed 15-year Riksdag veteran and chair of the parliament's defence committee, had been chosen by the nomination committee for the party leader post.

As the nomination committee's unanimous choice, Juholt still must be approved by the party's rank and file at the upcomingextra congress set for March 25th-27th.

According to a poll published on Friday in the Metro newspaper, nearly two thirds of Swedes surveyed said they had no idea who Juholt was, while an additional 22 percent said they only knew his name.

Metro went on to compare Juholt to Super Mario of the eponymous video game. Both have mustaches and both are heroes, although Super Mario fights "flame-throwing turtles" while Juholt's main enemy is a "centre-right Alliance that stole his voters".

The Social Democrat-supporting Aftonbladet praised Juholt's folksy appeal and the fact that he had "visited every Social Democratic association between Ystad and Haparanda", two cities in the far south and far north, respectively.

While concluding that the choice of Juholt "could very well work", Aftonbladet cautioned that "despite Julholt's many years in national politics, one can't find a single political idea that he's promoted".

The independently liberal Expressen labeled Juholt "a compromiser's compromise", adding that the choice of Juholt, along with Carin Jämtin as party secretary, was a "major victory for the party's left".

However, the Social Democrats can't hide from the need to incorporate policies from the party's right flank if they have ambitions of once again becoming Sweden's largest political party, Expressen continued, hinting at another strategic consideration in the choice of two left-leaning leaders.

"It may just be that Social Democrats with leftist credentials can gain the legitimacy and therefore the power to turn the party to the right," writes the paper.

The independently liberal-conservative Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) lamented that those who hoped for a "dynamic and future-oriented fountain of ideas behind the mustache" will likely be disappointed.

The paper points out that Juholt is no fan of "renewal", but that he was approved because he has a "sufficiently weak profile so he can't challenge the traditionalists. And: he's not Mona Sahlin".

SvD argues, however, that the party has missed a chance for true political renewal, and urges the rank and file to promote Mikael Damberg, who represents the party's more centrist wing, as an alternate candidate at the upcoming congress.

The independently liberal Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper pulled no punches in expressing its disappointment in the choice of Juholt, saying it sent "dismal signals about the party's direction".

The paper points out he has "limited experience in the cauldron of politics" and that, compared to past Social Democratic party leaders, "his list of accomplishments is remarkably thin".

"After two catastrophic elections, the conclusion seems to be that the Social Democrats must learn from the Moderates' changes in order to win back urban voters. Instead, they dream back to Social Democratic policies of an older mould most reminiscent of today's Left Party," writes DN.

"Those are dreams which, fortunately, are shared by ever fewer voters."

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