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Sweden's five biggest news stories of 2011

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Sweden's five biggest news stories of 2011
Maja Suslin; Björn Larsson Rosvall/Scanpix (File)
15:27 CET+01:00
As 2011 draws to a close, The Local looks back at some of the stories that dominated headlines in Sweden in the past year.

Last week, we published a list of The Local's most shared stories on Facebook from the past year.

This week, we highlight (in no particular order) a few of the stories that, in one way or another, helped define Sweden's news agenda in 2011:

Social Democrats in chaos

After what was termed a “disastrous” result in the September 2010 elections, Sweden's Social Democrats, the long dominant force in Swedish politics, struggled with how to deal with an unprecedented second parliamentary term in opposition.

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The party spend the early months of the year hunkered down in internal “crisis meetings” in a desperate bid to find a leader to replace Mona Sahlin, settling on dark horse moustachioed MP Håkan Juholt whose folksy charm was supposed to give the party a new start.

But just a few months into his tenure as party leader, Juholt found himself embroiled in an housing reimbursement scandal that nearly toppled him.

While he survived, Juholt and the Social Democrats head into 2012 mired in a swamp of low poll numbers, sagging confidence, and a dearth of credible answers on exactly how they plan to beat the now mighty Moderate Party in the next election.

Victoria pregnant

After an initial whirlwind of excitement and positive publicity, the much-anticipated pregnancy of Crown Princess Victoria, announced in mid-August, hasn't dominated the headlines, per se.

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But the fact that a new heir to the throne – and Sweden's future head of state – is on the way, is certainly a major event for Sweden and the monarchy

While members of the republican movement in Sweden may have moaned at the news, the country's media outlets are aflutter with excitement about the additional demand a royal birth is expected to create.

And after a tumultuous year for the Swedish royal family, news of Victoria's pregnancy will no doubt be considered the highlight of 2011.

An economy as “strong as Pippi Longstocking”

While much of Europe and the rest of the world limped along in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the ever-expanding European debt crisis, Sweden came into 2011 with record-high economic growth.

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--Sweden 'strong like Pippi Longstocking': OECD

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The success of the 'Swedish model' prompted the head of the OECD to proclaim that Sweden's economy was as “strong as Pippi Longstocking” and contributed to finance minister Anders Borg being named the best finance minister in Europe by the Financial Times.

There has even been talk of the Swedish krona replacing the Swiss franc as a safe haven currency in a debt-riddled Europe.

While growth has slowed somewhat recently, and forecasts for 2012 have been adjusted downward, Sweden can look back at 2011 as a year when its economy more or less withstood the storm of uncertainty and worry that kept the rest of Europe fretting.

One long, sad Saab story

Hardly a week has passed this year without at least one news story about Saab's ongoing struggles. Thus, Saab's December 19th bankruptcy filing was hardly a surprise for anyone who had tried to follow troubled Swedish automaker's numerous ups and downs in 2011.

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--Saab production halted 'until further notice'

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Ever since the Saab factory in Trollhättan first halted production last spring, it seemed more like a question of when, rather than if, the loss-making Saab would be forced into bankruptcy.

While Saab's wheeling and dealing CEO, Victor Muller, traveled the globe in search of new investors courting dodgy Russian businessman before settling on eager Chinese carmakers, his frantic efforts were, in the end, not enough to save Saab from falling deeper into the financial abyss.

Ever the optimist, Muller still holds out hope that Saab will rise again. Who knows? Guess we'll have to wait and see what the new year brings.

Royal scandal

Despite the excitement about Victoria's pregnancy, 2011 has been, in the words of the Crown Princess, “very rough” for the Swedish Royal Family.

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--Scandal-hit King denies all allegations

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--'Queen Silvia shouldn't be blamed for her father's Nazi past'

Her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, has been haunted by scandal stemming from a tell-all book published in late 2010.

Despite his attempts to put a lid on the scandal, the book's sordid details about the King's alleged marital infidelity and visits to strip clubs, as well as reports about his friend's attempts to buy the silence of mobster Marko Markovic, have caused the King's approval ratings to plummet and prompted many to question to monarchy altogether.

Meanwhile, Queen Silvia has struggled to deal with the fallout from reports that her late father, Walter Sommerlath, was a Nazi sympathizer.

And while any given year can bring bad publicity for any royal family, the degree to which the Swedish Royal Family has been on the defensive in 2011 is certainly out of the ordinary – at least for Sweden.

No doubt the King and the entire Royal Court is looking forward to March 2012, when the expected royal birth could help turn the family's publicity fortunes around.

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