Ten new minister faces you should know

Friday saw Sweden's Prime Minister announcing his new top team. There are 24 faces to remember. Here's The Local's guide to the most important and interesting appointments.

Ten new minister faces you should know
Sweden's new cabinet. Photo: TT
Stefan Löfven – Prime Minister (Social Democrats)
This is the main face you're going to need to get used to over the next four years. The 57-year-old was born in Stockholm and is a former welder, but rose to the national spotlight as the head of trade union IF Metall in 2006. He's never been a politician before. He has set unemployment and school results as priorities, and has plans to increase welfare payments for some groups.
Top trivia: Stefan Löfven was raised by foster parents. 
Magdalena Andersson – Finance Minister (Social Democrats)
Uppsala-born Andersson, 47, has had a long career in economics. She studied at the Stockholm School of Economics, and even in Harvard in the US and Vienna. Before becoming the Social Democrats' finance spokesperson in 2012, she served as the Chief Director of the Swedish Tax Agency. But this is not her first foray into politics, or indeed the Finance Ministry: she was state secretary at the ministry under the last Social Democratic government.
She has big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of Anders Borg, often credited as being the brains behind Sweden's successful dodging of the global economic crisis. 
Top trivia: Andersson's husband is also good with numbers – he's a Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics.
Margot Wallström – Foreign Minister (Social Democrats)
Also with big shoes to fill is 60-year-old Margot Wallström. Her pre-decessor Carl Bildt took to Twitter immediately (which is no surprise) to "warmly congratulate" her on the position. Wallström, who also tweets, is a former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and an ex EU Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy. She's from Skellefteå in the north of Sweden.
Top trivia: She never went to university.
Åsa Romson – Deputy Prime Minister (Green Party)
Romson is a 42-year-old Stockholmer who has headed the Green Party together with Gustav Fridolin since 2011. As befits a Green, she burns for anything to do with climate, and will be the Minister for Climate and Environment Minister. Romson used to be a lawyer and studied at Stockholm University. She has a healthy following on Twitter and loves to blog about her love of the outdoors.
Top trivia: She loves cycling
Gustav Fridolin – Education Minister (Green Party)
The second-youngest on this list, 31-year-old Fridolin was born in southern Sweden's Vittsjö. In fact, when he was just 19 he served as a member of the Swedish parliament for the Stockholm Municipality, making him the the youngest MP in Swedish history (the record was bested in 2010, however). 
Fridolin studied oriental languages and teaching while at university, and took a sabatical between 2006 and 2009 to work as an investigative journalist on TV show Kalla Fakta (The Cold Facts), while simultaneously teaching social sciences and history in an adult education college.
Top trivia: He has penned three books, all about politics. 
Alice Bah Kuhnke – Culture Minister (Green Party)
Bah Kuhnke, a 42-year-old from Malmö, is a new and very interesting face on the political scene. She has a showbiz past, including stints hosting Sveriges Television's Disney Club, working on Kalla Fakta – the same investigative TV programme Gustav Fridolin was involved with. She has studied political science, worked recently with internet and technical consultancy. Her father is Gambian.
Top trivia: She used to be one of the top 200 metre sprinters in Sweden
Mehmet Kaplan – Housing Minister (Green Party)
Kaplan, a 43-year-old born in Turkey, is a former spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Sweden. He has been with the Green Party since 2003. 
He caused a stir in Swedish media in June when he compared Swedish jihadists in Syria to Swedish freedom fighters in Finland during World War Two.
Top trivia: Kaplan was part of the Ship to Gaza flotilla that tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010
Aida Hadzialic – Minister for Upper-Secondary School and Educational Standards (Social Democrats)
Hadzialic, a 27-year-old born in Bosnia-Hertzagovina, is relatively new to politics. She worked as a lawyer until 2010. She enjoys photography, books by Ernest Hemingway, and thinks jobs, education, and investing in welfare are the most important political issues.
Top trivia: : Her favourite film is The English Patient. 
Annika Strandhäll – Social Insurance Minister
One of three ministers to come from outside politics, Strandhäll is a 39-year-old from Gothenburg. She studied at the Gothenburg University, and more recently was the head of trade union Vision, formerly known as The Swedish Union of Local Government Officers (SKTF).
Top trivia: Strandhäll said taking the job offer from Löfven wasn't an easy decision and needed 24 hours to think about it. 
Åsa Regnér – Minister for the Elderly, Children and Equality 
Another minister who's new to politics, Regnér was the general secretary of Sweden's National Association for Sexuality Education, the RFSU. Regnér studied at Stockholm University and studied philosophy, Spanish, and German. 
Top trivia: Last year, she spent time in Bolivia working for UN Women.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson mentioned Sweden and Swedishness no fewer than 70 times in her speech at the country's largest political event, writes The Local's editor Emma Löfgren in our new column Sweden Elects – which launches this week with just over two months to go until the election.

Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Sweden Elects is a new weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.


“I love Sweden and I’m proud to be Swedish.”

If you want to win the hearts and minds of Swedes, talk about the loveliness of long summer nights, barbecues and wild swimming, and do so from a stage in one of the most picturesque towns in Sweden.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson understood that much when she last night, on the first day of Sweden’s annual political festival Almedalen Week, gave a speech that did not shy away from invoking some of the most proudly Swedish of perceived Swedish features and values – everything from fields of daisies to trust, solidarity and hard work.

It was a speech clearly designed to reclaim patriotism from the nationalists ahead of the September 11th election, with a grand total of 71 mentions of “Swedish” or “Sweden” in half an hour. There was so much talk about Swedish values that it felt at times like those forced-collective notes you get in the laundry room: In this housing association we don’t leave fluff in the dryer. “In Sweden we don’t queue jump – not the supermarket queues and not in healthcare.”

“Sweden should be that Sweden which we love in every neighbourhood,” she said as she pledged to crack down on segregation and gang crime, one of three priority areas she has previously laid out for her government.

When it came to her other two priority areas, she spoke relatively briefly about the climate crisis but spent considerably more time on her third pledge to stop privatisation and profit-making in the welfare system – an issue where the Social Democrats have tried to firmly return to their traditional left-wing roots, while moving right on crime and punishment.

If you think I’m not talking much about specific policies, it’s because the speech didn’t address them much – but to be fair to the prime minister, an Almedalen speech at the height of summer rarely does. Andersson even said it herself: “What’s at stake in this election is more than different opinions on exactly how many prison cells we need (…) it’s which values should permeate Sweden. What kind of country we should be”.

But can a technocrat such as Andersson sell that vision? A former finance minister with a successful track record, she carried herself with the most gravitas when she spoke about the negative effects on the economy on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to the high rate of inflation as “Putin prices”. As a leader who enjoys far higher confidence figures than her main opponent – Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party – she sounds more convincing when talking about the economy and specific policies than about her love for “Swedish nature, the right to roam, paddling silently over a quiet lake or smelling the coniferous forest”.

I’m curious to know how you as a reader of The Local feel when politicians talk about “Swedish values”. Do you feel included or excluded, does it depend on how they talk about them and if so, what makes the difference? Is it possible to paint a positive patriotic vision? We’re likely going to hear much more talk about Swedishness and values from other politicians in the coming days at Almedalen Week, so feel free to email your thoughts to me at [email protected] – if I’m allowed to share them on The Local or in a future newsletter, please state so clearly in your email and whether or not we may use your name.

You can read Andersson’s full speech in Swedish here and watch it here.

A more international election?

Andersson also spoke about Sweden’s military defence and landmark decision to join Nato (“it’s how we best defend Sweden’s freedom, democracy and our way of life”), and it was fitting that she did so during Almedalen Week, which is held in Visby on the island of Gotland.

Gotland, as you probably know, has received attention in Sweden and beyond in the past months. Strategically located in the Baltic Sea, the popular tourism island was at the centre of Sweden’s defence debate even before the invasion of Ukraine, and that’s even more the case now.

We can expect foreign policy to play a bigger part in this election campaign than it normally does, after Sweden and Finland last week struck a deal that moved them one step closer to joining Nato.

The most controversial point of that deal is Turkey’s claim that Sweden promised to extradite 73 individuals Turkey labelled “terrorists” in exchange for them allowing Sweden to join Nato. Swedish ministers have since said that it is in the hands of independent courts and Swedish citizens cannot in any case be deported, but Andersson has stopped short of fully denying it, and there is growing concern among Turkish and Kurdish refugees about the protection of non-citizens vs realpolitik.

It’s another example of how important it is that the voices of non-citizens are also heard in the political debate – there are a lot of people who live in Sweden, perhaps even intend to stay here permanently, who are just as invested in its future as everyone else, but aren’t yet formally citizens.

The election on September 11th is likely to be a crucial vote, with a win for the opposition bringing the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats their first chance to form national policy, and a win for the Social Democrats putting a fragile government in power for the third term in a row.

What’s next?

Almedalen Week is Sweden’s annual political festival. It takes place in the medieval town of Visby on the island of Gotland and is typically attended by around 40,000 people – 95 percent of them coming from outside Gotland. Interest has been falling in recent years, but with two months to go until the election, it’s a key event in all party leaders’ calendars.

The main highlights of the week will be the party leaders’ speeches at Almedalen, which will all be broadcast live at Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT will show them with expert comments immediately afterwards (in Swedish) – I had a look at their website and it should be possible to watch these wherever you are in the world.

Here’s when they’ll take the stage:

Monday (today), 11am. Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson.

Monday (today), 7pm. Left leader Nooshi Dadgostar.

Tuesday, 11am. Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch.

Tuesday, 7pm. Liberal leader Johan Pehrson.

Wednesday, 11am. Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson.

Wednesday, 7pm. Centre leader Annie Lööf.

Thursday, 11am. Green leader Per Bolund.

Also, don’t miss The Local’s special Almedalen episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast. Our publisher James Savage and acting editor Richard Orange have been mingling with politicians and pundits and will have the latest news for you in a special episode which will be released this week.

The Local will as always cover the Swedish election from the point of view of international citizens living in Sweden. In our Sweden Elects newsletter, I will take a look every week at the issues that affect you; the biggest talking points; the whos, hows and whys; and several extra features just for paying members (you can find out HERE how to receive the newsletter to your inbox with everything included, and membership also gives you unlimited access to all of The Local’s articles).