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Sahlin slams Social Democrats over Libya

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Sahlin slams Social Democrats over Libya
13:35 CEST+02:00
Former Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin has criticised the party's u-turns over Sweden's participation in the UN-backed Libya mission, and new leader Håkan Juholt for being "harsh" to former justice minister Thomas Bodström.

Sahlin expressed her dismay over the Social Democrats current position on the Libya mission - that aircraft should be replaced by naval resources - in an interview with Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Monday.

"I think the Libya mission is incredibly important and we have to maintain the (cross-party) agreement. I don't understand what is happening at the moment," Sahlin said.

Sahlin continued to argue that it would be "horrible" if the Social Democrats were to be left out of the negotiations.

"The UN has asked Sweden to participate and we Social Democrats have made an agreement with the government. Then you should conduct a discussion with the government if the deployment should be discontinued or continue," she said.

Sahlin, who served as the leader of the Social Democrats from March 2007 until 2011, was pointedly reluctant to comment on her successor, Håkan Juholt, or the path that the Social Democrats should take to win back the confidence of the Swedish voters.

Since Sahlin's decision to resign as head of the Social Democrats almost six months ago, the party has engaged in a torrid process of self-reflection as it engaged in the process of appointing a new leader and to rebuild its political platform.

A recently published book by former justice minister and staunch Sahlin ally, Thomas Bodström, has sent shockwaves once again through the party.

In his book, Bodström claimed that Sahlin was the victim of a coup headed by Håkan Juholt, who was at the time a little known although long term member of the party's rank and file.

Juholt has since responded to Bodström's accusation, dismissing him as a "mediocre thriller writer" who had spent longer playing football than as a politician.

While Sahlin declined to confirm Bodström's version of events surrounding her departure, saying that she intended to read the book first, she leapt to her former cabinet colleague's defence.

"I think that Håkan expressed himself a little harshly in that Thomas had played football longer than he had been engaged in politics," she told DN.

"Thomas is like Zlatan, I think. It would be terrible with a national team with only Zlatan but it is nice that there is one," she added, referring to the popular Swedish captain and Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Sahlin continued to discuss the process of renewal that the party is undergoing in order to be more attractive to voters in Swedish cities, admitting that the process is plagued by difficulties.

"We are a party which is so old and we have so much tradition behind us, and there are still quite a few who look backwards."

The Swedish Social Democrats received between 40-55 percent of the votes in all elections between 1940 and 1988.

Aside from some short periods of coalition rule and opposition, the party enjoyed a long period of government until the victory by the centre-right Alliance coalition in 2006, a success repeated in 2010.

The party's share of the national vote had been in decline throughout the 2000s and plunged to a record low 30.66 percent in 2010.

Mona Sahlin was appointed as the party's first female leader in 2007, to succeed the outgoing Göran Persson. She is currently working with anti-racist newspaper Expo and has taken a position at the head of the fund set up to honour the murdered foreign minister Anna Lindh.

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