Magdalena Andersson: Who is Sweden's new prime minister?

Former finance chief wants to tackle gang crime and climate change

Who is Magdalena Andersson?

Sweden’s Finance Minister since 2014, Ms Andersson was chosen to succeed Stefan Lofven as leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

That made her the front-runner to be Sweden’s next prime minister, a position she secured in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.

She will be Sweden’s first female prime minister — 100 years after the first election in which women were eligible to vote.

Ms Andersson, 54, studied in Sweden, Austria and the US before entering politics and has previously worked in the prime minister's office as an adviser.

What is she promising?

Ms Andersson set out three priorities when she became party leader: tackling criminal gangs, reforming the welfare state and dealing with climate change.

She blamed failed integration policies for the wave in gangland crime, saying the government must address the social problems at the root of the violence.

“The weak society has reached the end of the road,” she said. “Violence is a poison that threatens our entire community.”

On climate change, Ms Andersson wants Sweden to set an example by investing in renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the country’s vaunted health and welfare system must be revamped with more public money, rather than relying on private investment, she said.

How will she tackle gang crime?

Ms Andersson wants to beef up law enforcement by hiring more police and prosecutors, with a goal of training 3,000 more officers by 2024.

But she pointed the finger at deeper roots of social exclusion, such as overcrowded housing and poor services, which leave a void filled by gangs.

Teachers, social workers and sports clubs are among those who should help bring people back into mainstream society, she said.

She called on people to show “personal responsibility” by not letting their money fall into the criminal underworld via drug deals or questionable businesses.

“Nothing less than a mobilisation of the whole society is required,” she said.

What happens next for her government?

With no majority in parliament, Ms Andersson’s government faces a rocky start when she formally presents her cabinet on Friday.

She won backing from the Left Party by promising help for low-income pensioners, but the concession cost her support from the rival Centre Party, which said it would allow her to become prime minister but not support her budget.

Ms Andersson said she would work with a budget supported by the opposition Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats if necessary.

The next election is in September 2022, with the Social Democrats hovering close to their lowest-ever approval ratings in the polls.

What is the reaction to her appointment?

There was much praise for Ms Andersson’s historic achievement in becoming the first female leader of Sweden.

“If women are only allowed to vote but are never elected to the highest office, democracy is not complete,” said independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh.

EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, a former Swedish minister, said “a glass ceiling has cracked and Sweden has a new excellent and strong PM”.

But Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the opposition Moderates, said the Social Democrats and their allies were desperately clinging to power.

“They can't get their policies adopted but they want to govern at any price. This is so desperate,” he told Swedish media.

Updated: November 24th 2021, 2:46 PM
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