“I would like to see someone stand up and say ‘I want to be party leader’,” Hägglund said in an interview with Sveriges Radio’s Ekot news programme.
Hägglund has been under fire periodically following the party’s poor showing at the 2010 election and after a string of weak opinion polls.
Confirmation that there is a petition circulating among the party’s members demanding that there be an open leadership contest ahead of the vote at the upcoming national conference, constitutes a direct challenge to Hägglund.
Those behind the petition argue that the party should follow the lead of the Centre and Green Party and adopt a more transparent leadership process with several candidates touring the country to present their policies.
Hägglund told Ekot that he would welcome a challenge, “someone to measure myself against”, and invited candidates to stand up and be counted.
Later on Friday, former minister Mats Odell confirmed that he is open to the idea of being a leadership candidate.
“Of course I have to have a think,” he said adding, “I have learned that Stockholm and Uppsala counties have nominated me,” he said.
Odell however said that while it was “flattering” to be nominated by the party districts, he would not state his position until he has received an approach from the party’s election nominating committee.
The Christian Democrats hold their national conference in January and the party is set to re/elect a party leader and party committee.
Hägglund played down the significance of opposition in some of the party’s key districts.
“It is the same districts as before who say they do not support me, Uppsala and Stockholm. But I have noticed that Skåne, Västerbotten, Blekinge. The City of Stockholm and Gothenburg, and a few more I understand, expressing support,” Hägglund told the TT news agency.
Hägglund claimed in his interview with Sveriges Radio that the opposition comes from right wingers within the party.
“There are a number within the party who want to pull the party to the right, who put in a lot of time and effort to push for tax cuts for the well off,” he said.