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Christian Democrat leadership race heats up

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Christian Democrat leadership race heats up
Mats Odell and Marcus Birro
10:19 CEST+02:00
A former minister as well a celebrity author and television personality Marcus Birro both announced on Sunday their plans to challenge embattled Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund for the party's top spot.

However Birro renounced his candidacy on Monday morning.

On Sunday night, the party announced that former financial markets minister Mats Odell had announced his candidacy for the party leader position.

In addition, journalist, poet, and television personality Marcus Birro also revealed he has been in contact with the head of the Christian Democrats' nomination committee about the party leader post.

“I hope they don't just see me as a 'celebrity', but rather as a social commentator devoted to many of the issues that the Christan Democrats are pushing,” Birro told the Expressen newspaper.

“I want to be the new party leader for the Christian Democrats – and now the party has the chance to do something totally unique.”

However, 16 hours after announcing his candidacy, Birro withdrew his name from the race upon realising the impact it could have on his television career.

"Things went too fast, quite simply," he told Expressen at 11am on Monday morning.

"It was the shortest candidacy in world history. I was a little naive and thought that everything would work out."

According to an email sent to nomination committee chair Chatrine Pålsson Ahlgren, Birro had second thoughts after realising he would be fired as co-host of TV4's 'Kvällsoppet' news discussion programme if he decided to run for the Christian Democrat leadership post.

In addition, Expressen, where Burro is a columnist, also "expressed concerns about his future" should he decide to run for the post.

"All of this together forces me to withdraw my candidacy," Birro wrote.

The announcements come following reports of growing doubts among the party's rank and file about Hägglund's leadership following a string of low poll numbers and a weak result in the 2010 elections.

Nevertheless, Hägglund said he “welcomed” the news that Odell had officially entered the party leader race.

“I think it's important that the party succeeds in getting its game plan settled, which provides a good basis for the positions which are taken by the party's members and representatives for the national meeting in January,” Hägglund told TT on Sunday night.

Last week, 19 prominent party members used an opinion article in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper to call for Hägglund to be replaced as party leader if the party wanted to ensure it gained enough support to remain in the Riksdag following the next election.

In a reply published on Saturday, 42 party members argued that Hägglund is taking the party in the right direction.

According to the TT news agency, only two of 26 party districts have openly demanded that Hägglund be replaced, compared with nine which have decided to give him renewed support, while 14 districts remain undecided.

Jenny Madestam, a political science professor at Stockholm University, doubts that a change in party leader will cure the Christian Democrats' ills.

“I don't think you solve the Christian Democrats' problems by replacing Göran Hägglund,” she told TT.

“He has relatively high confidence among voters and he's a popular party leader. Instead, they need to come to agreement internally about what they stand for and lay their cards on the table.”

According to Madestam, the party has lost its identity as part of the four-party governing Alliance of centre-right parties.

“Just like the Centre Party, the Christian Democrats need to profile themselves and reclaim their identity and tell the voters what they stand for. That's the problem – that that party is much too vague today.”

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