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Nyamko Sabuni resigns as leader of Sweden’s troubled Liberal Party

Nyamko Sabuni has announced that she is resigning as leader of the Liberal Party, shortly after she was widely condemned for appearing to say she would flee to Norway if Sweden was attacked.

Nyamko Sabuni resigns as leader of Sweden's troubled Liberal Party
Nyamko Sabuni arrives at the press conference to announce her resignation. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

“I am who I am with all the strengths and weaknesses,” she said at a press conference announcing her resignation. “In June, 2019, the party chose the whole me, but the whole me is not what is now needed. The whole me and the discussion over the whole me is overshadowing what is most important.” 

Johan Pehrson, Sabuni’s current deputy, will take over as the new leader. 

The resignation came after she faced strong criticism because of a YouTube video released by the Liberal Party which shows Sabuni discussing the security situation with Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson. 

In it she talks about the advantages of living out in the countryside, particularly in her home region in Värmland, in the event of a war. 

“If there’s a war, we have Skillingmark in Värmland, where we can find our own food and water. If it gets any worse, then we’ll drive over to Norway,” she said in the video

After the clip went viral, Sabuni defended it in an interview with Dagens Nyheter as a “light-hearted conversation where we were fantasising about where we would most want to be [in the case of a war].” she said. 

Swedish Radio’s political commentator Tomas Ramberg said that he didn’t think that the decision had been long planned in advance, but did not think it was in response to the reaction from the clip either. 

Since taking over as leader of the party in June, 2019, Sabuni has pulled the party back into the right-wing opposition, breaking off the January Agreement under which the Liberal Party and Centre Party supported a Social Democrat prime minister. 

She has at the same time upset many in her party by deciding that it will back a right-wing government that is dependent on the support of the far-Right Sweden Democrats. 

Perhaps the main reason for her departure, however, is the poor polling figures the party has had under her leadership, which now put it just over two percent, well below the four percent needed to enter the parliament. 

“This is a task which I’m taking on with energy and humility,” Pehrson said in a press release. “The Liberals are the key to a liberal, right-wing government, and I am now ready to lead the Liberals through a historic election campaign.” 

Member comments

  1. She is quite right to think like that : Norway is a founding NATO member, and has the full protection of NATO from external military threats. Sweden should apply for membership of NATO.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party

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