Feminist party threatens to unseat Swedish premier

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The Independent Online

Sweden, where almost half of all MPs are women, is on the verge of striking a fresh blow for sexual equality as a newly formed feminist alliance is now tipped to unseat the Prime Minister.

Sweden, where almost half of all MPs are women, is on the verge of striking a fresh blow for sexual equality as a newly formed feminist alliance is now tipped to unseat the Prime Minister.

The Feminist Initiative, launched earlier this week, is already eating into the support of the ruling Social Democrats and their Green and Left Party coalition allies. And, of those backing the group launched to fight for women's rights, more than one in three are men.

According to a survey published by the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the embryonic feminist grouping has captured 7 per cent of the vote. That would be enough to spell severe trouble for the country's long-standing Social Democratic Prime Minister, Göran Perrson, in next year's elections, and might cost him his job.

The poll findings have rattled the coalition and given a spectacular boost to the Feminist Initiative, which has not yet officially become a party or said that it will contest the elections. Its current priority is to tour the country and maximise the considerable publicity surrounding its launch.

Officially the grouping has no leader, though its public face is Gudrun Schyman, who already enjoyed a high profile as a former leader of the Left Party. Ms Schyman is one of the country's most effective political operators, but her career has been marked by personal controversy. Not only has she fought a long and public battle against alcohol abuse, but she was also embroiled in a scandal over a tax return before having to resign as leader of the Left Party.

So far there is no sign of a detailed policy platform, though the Feminist Initiative says that even egalitarian Sweden still has problems in areas such as equality of pay and violence against women.

Launching the party earlier this week, Ms Schyman said: "This is a question of power. We in Sweden live in a society which is built on an idea that men should have the most power and dominate."

Most of the rest of Europe sees the Swedes as role models in their commitment to sexual equality. Sweden has the highest proportion of female representatives in any European political system: 45.3 per cent of Swedish MEPs are women, compared with 18.1 per cent in the UK.

Although the Feminist Initiative is in its infancy, the threat it poses to the ruling coalition is real. The Social Democrats have governed Sweden for six of the past seven decades, and voter fatigue is thought to be one reason for a slide in popularity.

Polls were already showing a slide in popularity for Mr Persson's coalition and putting it behind an opposition centre-right alliance of four parties - the so-called "bourgeois bloc". That trend will be accelerated, according to yesterday's poll, which indicated that almost one third of Left Party voters would switch their allegiance to back the Feminist Initiative. In a sign of his alarm, the Prime Minister has suggested that the supporters of the new feminist group could let the centre-right back into power by the back door.

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