Feminist is the favourite to take over as Prime Minister in Stockholm

TONY BARBER

Europe Editor

A feminist who wears jeans to work and wants to prosecute men who visit prostitutes is the front-runner to replace Ingvar Carlsson as Sweden's next Prime Minister. Mona Sahlin, 38, who at present combines the jobs of deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Sexual Equality, received 49 per cent this week in a straw poll of supporters of the ruling Social Democrats.

Her nearest rival was the little-known Minister for Co-ordination, Jan Nygren, who scored 19 per cent in the survey published by the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. An outside candidate, Margareta Winberg, who is the Agriculture Minister and is known chiefly for her hostility to the European Union, received 11 per cent.

Mr Carlsson, 60, announced last Friday that he would resign at a party congress next March, 10 years after he took over the Social Democratic leadership following the assassination of Olof Palme. Mrs Sahlin, a mother of three who dropped out of university because her studies bored her, has been one of Mr Carlsson's most trusted colleagues in recent years.

If she replaces Mr Carlsson, she will not only become Sweden's first female prime minister but its youngest ever. She played a key part in persuading Mr Carlsson to introduce a rule under which cabinet posts are distributed equally between men and women.

She has strong support among the youth and women's sections of the Social Democrats, and the party faithful admire her defence of Sweden's large and expensive public sector as an important national asset that should be funded by tax increases if necessary. But some private business executives have regarded Mrs Sahlin with suspicion ever since she criticised their high pay and bonuses and called them "spoilt children".

Mr Carlsson's retirement will allow his successor up to two and a half years to settle into the prime minister's job before Sweden holds its next general elections. Having steered the Social Democrats to victory last September, and having led the successful "Yes" campaign in last October's referendum on joining the EU, Mr Carlsson felt the time was right to bow out at the top.

"I want to have something that I haven't experienced in 30 years," he said. "I want to be able to have dinner with my family without having to book it three months in advance."

Mr Carlsson's government has lost popularity over the past year because it has been forced to adopt strict austerity measures to combat Sweden's worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Unemployment runs at more than 12 per cent, if people on various government-backed working and training schemes are included, and the budget deficit is more than 11 per cent of GNP.

Cuts in welfare spending have alienated many traditional Social Democratic voters and increased support for the Left Party of reformed communists. At the same time, public enthusiasm for the EU has declined, with polls suggesting that a majority would oppose membership if Sweden held a new referendum.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence