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Mona's successor

Social Democrats continue leadership search

Published onsdag 2 mars 2011 kl 11.33
"Too far to the right" for some in the party? Social Democrat Mikael Damberg

Sweden's Social Democratic Party took one step closer to getting a new leader Tuesday, as the party's nominating committee once again met with representatives from the party's local districts. But will they now have to start looking for more than just a new leader, with just three weeks to go before the special party conference?

The Social Democrats don't have an open election to pick their party leader. Many fear that would lead to open conflicts and splits within the party, so instead they have a slightly more old-school method, with a nominating committee that sounds out what the various party districts want, and then comes with suggestions.

Much of this happens behind closed doors, and many of the possible candidates do not even confirm they are candidates to the outside world, preferring to keep it all secret. At the end of the process though there will be one winning candidate and they will be anointed at a special conference in just three weeks time.

- So who is in the running?

According to the Swedish media, and much of this is from leaks within the Social Democratic party, three names are now in the running for the top job. Mikael Damberg, Thomas Östros and Sven-Erik Österberg. All three are established politicians, all three have some experience in the party leadership.

  • Thomas Östros has long been at the top of the party and is currently their economic spokesman.
  •  Mikael Damberg is the youngest at 39, and he has been the leader of the young Social Democrats and is currently education spokesman for the party.
  • Sven-Erik Österberg has long been a favourite in the contest to become leader, and is currently group leader in the Swedish parliament.

- But none of them are clear favourites for the job?

- According to the media reports it seems not, and that is because none of the candidates are perfect. The Social Democrats are seen as many as the natural party of government here, and they have now lost two elections in a row, so there is a feeling among some that they need to make a big change, and that's problematic for two of the main candidates.
Thomas Östros has been in the last two Social Democratic governments, so he is hardly a new face, and isn't really seen as being a charismatic vote winner. Sven-Erik Österberg on the other hand is not really that known, is the oldest of the three, and some wonder if he is not just a bit too much of a safe pair of hands, would he make the changes needed to win back the middle class voters in the big cities?
Then you have Mikael Damberg, who is seen as being on the right of the party, and that is problematic for the more left-wing local party districts, such as those in the south and Stockholm city. If they were to accept Damberg as leader, they may need some concessions and changes to bring more left-wing candidates in the other top positions in the party to "balance him out". There might also need to be some more women in there, as all three leadership favourites are most definitely male.
On top of that outgoing party leader Mona Sahlin is the only person at the top of the party to have actually said that they are willing to go, everyone else seems to want to keep their job, making it even more difficult for a reshuffle, if that is what is needed.

- So what's happening now?

- According to the reports the nominating committee is now in discussions with the districts to see if they can broaden their selection process, and also change those other top jobs at the top of the party. At the moment they only have the mandate to pick a new leader, and if they are going to manage to get a compromise on that, they may also have to switch some of the other jobs around so that everyone is happy.
However, they don't have much time, the conference is in just three weeks time, and that's a big can of worms that they may now have just opened if they are also going to manage to organise a reshuffle as well as pick a new leader. The aim is to present a name by the end of the week they say, so it is going to be rather hectic for the party over the next few days.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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