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: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss