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Swedish papers size up Håkan Juholt

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.

Swedish papers size up Håkan Juholt

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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NATO

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

Sweden's Prime Minister has said that her party has brought forward the date for a decision on Nato membership by ten days, meaning a decision could be in place before a state visit by Finland's president in mid-May.

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

The decision had previously been tabled for a meeting of the party board on May 24th, but could now be taken at an extra meeting of the Social Democrats ruling committee on May 15th, Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference on Thursday. 

“We will of course discuss the issue and then we can see if we feel ready to take a decision or not,” she said at a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw. 

She said that the security guarantees Sweden has received from the US and Germany for the period between a possible application and full Nato membership were significant. 

“It means a lot if Sweden chooses to send in an application, that we will be safer during the period up until we become members than we otherwise would be,” she said. 

“The party committee can take a decision then,” Party secretary Tobias Baudin he told Sweden’s TT newswire of the May 15th meeting. 

The meeting will come just two days after the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which includes representatives from all political parties, is due to submit its own reassessment of Sweden’s security situation. 

“It depends on what the security policy dialogue shows,” Baudin says of the decision. “Right now meetings in party districts are going at full pace.” 

The May 15th meeting will take place on the Sunday before the week when Finland’s Iltalehti and Sweden’s Expressen newspaper last month reported Finland and Sweden had already decided to jointly announce a decision to join Nato.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, is due to visit Stockholm on 17th May and 18 May on a state visit, where he will be hosted by King Karl XVI Gustaf.  

The meeting of the Social Democrats’ ruling committee will come shortly after the party holds three digital members’ meetings on security policy, on May 9th, May 10th and May 12th (although these may also be brought forward). 

There is still resistance in the party’s rank and file, with at least three of the party’s powerful leagues still openly opposed to joining: 

  • The Social Democratic Women in Sweden voted last week to continue its opposition to Nato membership.
  • The Swedish Social Democratic Youth League has said it would prefer Sweden to bolster its security through the EU.
  • The Religious Social Democrats of Sweden has said that it believes the decision should not be rushed through at a time of conflict.  
  • The Social Democrat Students’ League has said that it wants to wait until it has seen the security police analysis before taking a decision. 

None of these leagues can block membership, however. It is the Social Democrats’ ruling party committee which is empowered to take the decision. 

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