coalitions parties

Leadership battle divides Christian Democrats

4:21 min

On Monday Mats Odell officially laid down a challenge to his party leader, saying it's time for Göran Hägglund to leave.

The Christian Democrats are a small party, but they play a key role in supporting the ruling centre-right alliance. If the Christian Democrat vote next election falls below four per cent, then none of their candidates will be elected, meaning that in all likelihood the current alliance would not be able to claim to be the biggest bloc in the Swedish parliament.

It is presumably this nightmare scenario that leadership challenger Mats Odell is thinking of when he said yesterday that the Christian Democrats are facing what could be their deepest crisis since the party was founded in the 1960s.

"I have taken the decision to stand after talking with my wife and children," he says, adding that he is now prepared to "shoulder the responsibility" for the future development of the party.

Mats Odell accuses Göran Hägglund of not being "clear enough", as party leader. That Hägglund hasn't been good enough at communicating, both within the party, and with the general public. He also says that Hägglund hasn't been hard-nosed enough when negotiating with the other parties in the alliance.

The position of the local party organisations will be crucial in deciding this leadership contest. Not just in the final vote, at a party conference in January, but also in giving the contenders the confidence to campaign all through the rest of this year. So far, according to news agency TT, nine districts support Hägglund, while two call for him to step down. And the field is not yet full - more figures could still decide to stand, especially if Hägglund looks weak.

Yesterday TV personality and poet Marcus Birro was fired as presenter of a TV4 evening program after making an abortive attempt to be considered as a leadership candidate.

Radio Sweden spoke to Caroline Szyber, member of parliament and the head of the party in Stockholm's city. She says that even within the Stockholm region the party is split - with the greater Stockholm branch calling for Mats Odell to take over and her Stockholm city branch supports Göran Hägglund.

But she agrees with Mats Odell that the party is in crisis:

"It's been hard for us to find our position with in the alliance and be part of a coalition government."

But she says that there is little difference between the two current candidates, as far as personality or politics goes. And whoever emerges as leader will inherit the current tough situation. The Christian Democrats needed tactical votes from the Moderate Party last election to make it over the magic four per cent. But if they compromise on too many of their policies due to Moderate pressure, voters may decide that there is little point voting for the Christian Democrats.

Caroline Szyber says that her party retains a uniquely Christian character, but that an important challenge for the leadership is making it clear that they oppose intolerant views that seek support from scripture. "The Bible is not our party book," she says.