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The ultimate guide to Sweden's party leaders

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The ultimate guide to Sweden's party leaders
Sweden's Prime Minister (centre) along with the country's Green Party leaders: Photo: TT
15:34 CEST+02:00
Two are pregnant, four are under 40 and nearly half are women. The Local's beginners' guide to Swedish political leaders reveals who has clung on to power and whose heads have rolled in the months since Sweden's general election in September 2014.

Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna)

Who: Stefan Löfven

Age: 57

Current role: Prime Minister of Sweden since 2014

Background: Formerly the head of one of the country's most powerful unions, IF Metall, Stefan Löfven was persuaded to stand for leadership following record-low poll ratings for the Social Democrats in 2012 and led the party to victory in the parliamentary elections two years later. He started his career as a welder after growing up with an adoptive family in Örnsköldsvik, a small industrial town in northern Sweden. Löfven hit the headlines worldwide when he called a snap election after his party's budget was blocked in parliament in late 2014. The election was cancelled after his centre-left coalition struck a deal – the December Agreement – with the centre-right Alliance parties.

Party: The Social Democrats are the oldest and largest party in Sweden and dominated the political landscape until the 1990s. The party promotes workers' rights and built the modern Swedish welfare state, paid for by progressive taxation. After a crushing defeat in 2006, the Social Democrats continued to lose votes in 2010, particularly from Sweden's urban middle class. But the party bounced back after Löfven took over as leader and returned to power in a coalition with the Green Party following the general election in September 2014. Some of the party's more controversial policies so far have been recognizing Palestine and its push for a feminist foreign policy which saw relations grow frosty between Sweden and Saudi Arabia in the first part of 2015.

Number of seats: 113

READ MORE: Is Sweden returning to 1990s social democracy?

Green Party (Miljöpartiet)

Who: Gustav Fridolin and Åsa Romson

Age: 32 and 43

Current role: Joint Green Party spokespeople and ministers in Stefan Löfven's government

Background: Gustav Fridolin was the youngest member of parliament in Swedish history when he was first elected in 2002. He serves as Education Minister in Sweden's current centre-left government and became joint spokesperson for the party in 2011 alongside Åsa Romson, a Stockholm-based lawyer. Romson lives in Hägersten in Stockholm with her partner Fredrik Karlsson and describes herself as a keen blogger and cyclist. She is currently Deputy Prime Minister with special responsibility for environmental issues.

Party: The Greens first won seats in the Swedish parliament in 1988. They had hoped to become the third largest party in the September 2014 elections, but lost out to the nationalist Sweden Democrats. The Greens did, however, enter government for the first time in 2014, after forming a coalition with the Social Democrats. The party is focused on fighting climate change and promotes policies designed to protect the planet for future generation. Some issues on which it has sparred with its coalition partners include the potential closure of Bromma airport, which it supports, and the building of a motorway bypass around Stockholm, which it is against.

Number of seats: 25

READ MORE: Greens fail to become third largest in Sweden

Moderate Party (Moderaterna)

Who: Anna Kinberg Batra

Age: 45

Current role: New party leader and head of the centre-right opposition

Background: Joining the Moderates' youth wing at the mere age of 13, Anna Kinberg Batra studied economics at the Stockholm School of Economics and worked at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce before becoming a member of parliament in 2001. She is fluent in Dutch after having spent some time in the Netherlands in her youth, and is married to well-known Swedish comedian David Batra. Born and bred in the Swedish capital, one of the statements she's the most famous for – and probably the one she would most like to forget – is from 1998 when she said that “Stockholmers are smarter than hillbillies” in a televised interview.

Party: The first female leader of the Moderates, Anna Kinberg Batra has had a tough task taking over from her popular predecessor Fredrik Reinfeldt, who stepped down with approval ratings of well over 50 percent after Sweden's general election in 2014. There has been growing discord in the party over the controversial December Agreement, a deal struck between the ruling centre-left coalition and the Alliance opposition – the Moderates, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats – to thwart a budget crisis in late 2014.

The Moderates are focused on job creation and cutting taxes. After eight years in power the party lost out to the Social Democrats in Sweden's general election in 2014, but it remains Sweden's largest opposition party.

Number of seats: 84

READ MORE: Four budget proposals from Sweden's opposition

Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna)

Who: Ebba Busch Thor

Age: 28

Current role: New party leader

Background: A graduate in Peace and Conflict Studies at Uppsala University, Ebba Busch Thor grew up in the nearby town of Gunsta and has been active in the Christian Democrats since 2006. Currently a councillor in the student city Uppsala, she was chosen to take over as party head from Göran Hägglund in April 2015. The youngest leader of a Swedish political party, Busch Thor is set to have a baby in May. She has previously said that she would go on maternity leave for “a shorter period” this summer, and that her husband Niklas Thor, a football player for IK Sirius FK, would claim the lion's share of their parental leave.

Party: The Christian Democrats have been trying to move away from their religious roots and build wider support, but the party is struggling to gain popularity. It only just reached the four-percent threshold needed to secure seats in the Swedish parliament in the last general election in September 2014, having previously held top ministerial posts as part of the centre-right Alliance. Busch Thor is widely expected to favour a more right-wing agenda than her predecessor and she has said that she plans to promote the party's traditional conservative values and to fight to increase rights for families in Sweden.

Number of seats: 16

READ MORE: Christian Democrats elect first female leader

Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet)

Who: Jan Björklund

Age: 53

Current role: Party leader

Background: A former major in the Swedish army, Jan Björklund first became a member of parliament in 2006. Originally from the west coast of Sweden, he now lives in Bromma in Stockholm with his wife and two sons. He says he cries easily, makes good pancakes and enjoys listening to Frank Sinatra. But his party has been struggling in polls lately and it has been suggested his leadership is hanging by a thread.

Party: The Liberal Party is part of the centre-right Alliance. Its core supporters are middle-class voters. The party is focused on improving education, encouraging more open immigration, joining Nato and nuclear expansion. It also promotes what it calls “feminism without socialism”, aiming to secure equal opportunities by investing in work sectors dominated by women and encouraging men to share childcare responsibilities. The party has been plummeting in the polls and a survey in April 2015 put their approval ratings at 3.5 percent, meaning it would not make it into parliament if an election was held today.

Number of seats: 19

READ MORE: Integration drives wedge between Sweden's liberals

Centre Party (Centerpartiet)

Who: Annie Lööf

Age: 31

Current role: Party leader

Background: Annie Lööf became MP for Jönköping County in southern Sweden when she was just 23 years old and was selected to become leader of the party in 2011. She has a degree in law and lives in Nacka, Stockholm. In April 2015 she announced that she and her husband, Carl-Johan Lööf, were due to have a baby in autumn. She said she would take six months of parental leave, but added that she would still do “certain things that party leaders do during that time” such as making a Christmas speech.

Party: The Centre Party has rural roots, emerging from Sweden's Farmers' League, which was set up more than one hundred years ago. Agricultural and environmental issues remain key concerns alongside allowing local communities to make their own decisions. More recently the party has tried to attract urban voters by promising help for small businesses.

Number of seats: 22

READ MORE: Baby on the way for Centre Party leader

Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna)

Who: Jimmie Åkesson

Age: 35

Current role: Returning party leader

Background: An early entrant into politics, Jimmie Åkesson began his career as a city councillor in his home town, Sölvesborg in southern Sweden, after joining the party's youth wing as a teenager. After leading the Sweden Democrats to a record 12.9 percent of the vote in the September 2014 election, it came as a surprise to many when Åkesson revealed he was going to take time out due to chronic fatigue. Six months of sick leave later, in an interview on a Swedish-Norwegian talk show, the Sweden Democrat leader – who has also struggled with gambling problems – revealed that he was taking antidepressants and would be returning to work in successive stages from April onwards.

Party: The nationalist Sweden Democrats were founded in 1988, evolving from far-right organizations with neo-Nazi roots. In recent years the party has worked to tone down its image as a racist and extremist group, including through mass expulsions of some of its more conservative members, causing a rift between the mother party and its youth wing which wants to pursue a more radical path. However, cutting immigration remains the party's main goal.

Sweden's third biggest party following the 2014 election, the Sweden Democrats are the kingmakers in parliament and were involved in sparking a government crisis shortly after September's vote after they helped block the centre-left coalition's budget proposal. Its parliamentary group leader, Mattias Karlsson, led the party during Jimmie Åkesson's sick leave and some had suggested he could take over the leadership permanently.

Number of seats: 49

READ MORE: How did Sweden Democrats go mainstream?

Left Party (Vänsterpartiet)

Who: Jonas Sjöstedt

Age: 50

Current role: Party leader

Background: Born in Gothenburg, Jonas Sjöstedt is a former metal worker who has also worked in Strasbourg and Brussels as a member of the European Parliament and in New York where he wrote for left-wing magazines and newspapers. He has been a member of the Swedish parliament since 2010. Sjöstedt is married to Swedish diplomat Ann Måwe who is part of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations.

Party: As its name suggests, the Left Party is the most left-wing group in the Swedish parliament. It has a long history and described itself as communist until the 1990s. The Left Party has never served in government but usually offers informal support to Social Democrat governments whenever they are in power. The party is against the privatization of public companies and supports higher taxes to fund Sweden's welfare state.

Number of seats: 21

READ MORE: Sweden's left backs European 'red spring'

Feminist Initiative (Feministiskt initiativ)

Who: Gudrun Schyman and Sissela Nordling Blanco

Age: 66 and 27

Current roles: Joint party leaders

Background: After leading the Left Party for a decade, Gudrun Schyman helped form the Feminist Initiative in 2005. A candid politician, she has admitted battling with alcoholism and avoiding taxes, and famously burned 100,000 kronor in a protest about the gender pay gap in 2010. She is currently leading the party on her own, after Sissela Nordling Blanco – who is also a Stockholm councillor – announced in April 2015 that she was set to take a time out due to exhaustion.

Party: The Feminist Initiative argues that Sweden's image as a tolerant, equal society is not a reality. It wants women and men to be entitled to the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities. The party also speaks out against racial discrimination and violence and wants to stop all military spending and arms exports by Sweden. It had an historic victory in the European Parliamentary elections in 2014 as Swedes voted in the EU's first feminist party MEP, Soraya Post, and narrowly missed out on winning a seat in the national parliament in September, scoring 3.1 percent of the vote.

Number of seats: 0

READ MORE: Sweden's feminists launch in Norway

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