In her speech, the party’s first woman leader promised to build on the legacy of her predecessor. “Sweden is a better country to live in today,” she said, “than in 2006,” the year Reinfeldt took over at the head of the center-right government.
Formerly the party’s spokesperson on economic policy, the 44 year old Kinberg Batra promised that stable national finances would remain the basis of the party’s economic policies, adding that it should be more profitable for people who have turned 64 to remain working.
She also called for a study into the possibility of Swedish membership in NATO, a position already embraced by the Center and Christian Democrat parties, while the fourth center-right party, the Liberals, has long supported straight away joining the western military Alliance.
Media reports say she’ll have some patching up to do, as some party activists, concerned with loses to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, want the conservative Moderates to take a tougher position on immigration.
In her conference speech, however, Kinberg Batra said it was “our human duty” to help people in need, but promised more help to municipalities to accept asylum seekers. “We don’t say ‘go home’,” she pledged, “we say ‘go to work’”.
Last month the other seven parties in parliament agreed to the “December agreement” to prevent the Sweden Democrats from holding a balance of power in parliamentary budget questions, and to make it easier for future minority governments to rule. But a number of former leading conservative Moderates have criticized the agreement, and Kinberg Batra will have to deal with their objections as well.
Around 200 district representatives and 500 other party members gathered for the special party conference, held in Solna, just north of Stockholm.
In his speech, outgoing leader Reinfeldt urged the party to keep moving with the times, in order to stay relevant.