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Annie Lööf to step down as Centre Party leader

The Local Sweden
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Annie Lööf to step down as Centre Party leader
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf announces her resignation at a press conference on Thursday. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

The leader of Sweden's Centre Party has announced that she is stepping down as leader of the party she has led since 2011.

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Lööf, whose centre-right party broke from its former allies on the right over their support for the far-right Sweden Democrats, said she would stay on as leader until the party had selected a replacement. 

As she resigned she said she was "standing tall" in the knowledge that she had stuck to her principles, a reference to her party's refusal to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats even at the cost of supporting the left-wing Social Democrats in government. 

"I have done my part and I know that there are others who are not going to let hate win." 

She was, she said, "convinced that there are other forces which will push back when the limits of decency are being passed". 

At the press conference, Lööf said that her decision had been partly influenced by the threats and abusive posts online she has faced since even before leaving the right-wing Alliance and giving her party's support to the Social Democrats.

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On July 6th, she was the intended target of a suspected terror attack at the Almedalen political festival. The perpetrator, Theodor Engström, who had a history in the extreme-right Nordic Resistance Movement, instead fatally stabbed a senior Swedish psychiatrist. 

She said that on Sunday, after the campaign was over she felt "a relief not to have come to any harm," and a "relief at being able to fetch my daughters from daycare."

"Of course, that hateful rhetoric has affected me." 

But this was not the only reason for her decision, she said. 

"I came to the final conclusion yesterday, but this is a decision which I have slowly been coming to. If I was really honest, I would say I felt throughout this last mandate period that this would be the last election campaign I would lead." 

 "After this decision," she added, "my children are going to get more time with their mother." 

In the election, the Centre Party's share of the vote dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.7 percent, something Lööf said, "I am not satisfied with, absolutely not".

"But it's natural," she said, "that you be judged on the basis of your most recent election result." 

As for the party's poor performance in the countryside, its main voting base when it was Sweden's farmer's party, she blamed "populist solutions that are impossible to implement", such as the plan to cut diesel tax by 9 to 12 kronor, which she said had "lured lots and lots of people". 

The Centre Party will now call an extraordinary party meeting to choose a new leader.  

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