‘High hopes’ for Löfven as Social Democrat head

Stefan Löfven, a down-to-earth man from northern Sweden, politically inexperienced but with good chances of strengthening the crisis struck Social Democrats, received mainly flattering judgements from the nation's editorialists.

'High hopes' for Löfven as Social Democrat head

For the most part, the editorial pages of newspapers across Sweden offered generally flattering reviews for Löfven, who is expected to be formally installed as the successor of recently-resigned Social Democrat head Håkan Juholt.

The 54-year-old IF Metall union chief is described as pragmatic and endearing, but capable of being tough when needed.

According to daily Svenska Dagbladet, an independent moderate paper, Lofven is better than a high-profile saviour for the party because he has a “a low profile, high integrity, and a good judgement.”

Many editorial writers also hinted that Löfven was elected because of his abilities to unify a divided party.

“He was elected because the Social Democrat leadership have chosen comfort before a new start, peace and quiet before renewal,” wrote the Helsingborgs Dagbladet daily.

“But a congenial stick in the mud can be unexpectedly dangerous,” said the Blekinge Läns Tidning, which also emphasizes that Löfven has a long uphill battle in front of him.

Göran Greider with the Social Democratic Dala-Demokraten daily called the party’s choice “slightly revolutionary” and found it refreshing to have someone from the Swedish industrial working class smack in the middle of the political scene.

“In this new environment he has a chance to provide just what has been missing for so long: a working class voice. I hope he dares to take it,” Greider writes.

But not all the words written about Löfven were flattering, with some papers also directing attention to his lack of political experience, including the fact that he doesn’t have a seat in parliament.

“How will he manage this assignment without being in the Riksdag?,” asked the Social Democratic Värmlands Folkblad, adding that “he has shown great abilities leading IF Metall, but this heavy political assignment demands completely different things from him.”

While many of the social democratic-leaning editorial writers are hoping that choosing a man with union ties will strengthen the relationship between The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Länsorganisationen — LO) and the Social Democrats, others remain sceptical of such a development.

“Half of the LO members don’t even vote for the Social Democrats so why this unhealthy ‘union-political’ interaction?” asked the conservative Nya Wermlands-Tidningen (NWT) daily.

Even though the Social Democrats hope to have found their man of steel, the social demcrat-leaning Västerbottens Folkblad daily is encouraging people to remember Löfven is just a man.

“He has a background and a past. Everybody has at some point made a mistake, it is only human,” the paper wrote.

Moreover, it remains to be seen if Löfven can meet the expectations placed upon him by his party colleagues and Social Democrat voters.

“With Löfven as party leader, perhaps Sweden at last will get the opposition leader it so desperately needs. It would in that case not be a minute too late,” wrote the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily.

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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.