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


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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Recruitment Genius: Events / Conference Operations Manager

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot