Romina Pourmokhtari, 26, becomes Sweden's youngest minister

Former Liberal party youth wing head, who has Iranian heritage, given climate and environment portfolio

Romina Pourmokhtari has become Sweden's new climate minister. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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A woman of 26, whose family come from Iran, has become Sweden's youngest minister after being given the climate and environment portfolio.

Romina Pourmokhtari, who was born in Stockholm, was until now head of the Liberal party's youth wing, and had not been known for her views on climate issues.

In recent weeks, she has shown her support for protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in morality police custody in Tehran on September 16. Amini had been detained for wearing her hijab “improperly”.

She has retweeted comments critical of the Iranian regime after the weekend fire at Evin prison, and pictures of the daughter of protester Minoo Majidi standing at the grave of her mother, who was killed at a demonstration.

Ms Pourmokhtari becomes the youngest person to lead a ministry in the home nation of teenage global climate activist Greta Thunberg. The previous youngest minister was 27.

She is part of the Cabinet of newly elected Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party, who heads a right-wing coalition that is shored up by the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, of the Social Democratic Party, announced she was stepping down, after conceding defeat in the close-fought election.

Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari arrives at Parliament in Stockholm. AFP

Ms Pourmokhtari has been an outspoken critic of Mr Kristersson's move to closer align his party with the SD.

“Ulf Kristersson without SD — Absolutely. Ulf Kristersson with SD — No thanks,” she wrote in a Twitter post in 2020.

Sweden's coalition government was announced on Friday.

Mr Kristersson's Moderates will form a centre-right alliance with the Christian Democrats and the Liberals.

But it will govern with support from the nationalist and anti-immigration SD — who won a fifth of votes in the election. The far-right party pledged to support the government in exchange for policy commitments, especially on immigration and crime.

While presenting his Cabinet, Mr Kristersson also announced the creation of a new minister post for “civil defence” as the country faces tensions with Russia.

The SD were the big winners in the election, and emerged as the second-largest party, trailing only the Social Democrats, who have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s.

The influence of the SD in government has led to tensions within the Liberals, whose support is also essential for Kristersson's survival.

The new Swedish government on Lejonbacken terrace at Stockholm Palace. AP

Over the summer, Iran-born Independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh was thrown into the spotlight as Sweden fought a tug-of-war over its Nato membership bid.

Stockholm was under pressure from Turkey to get tough with Kurdish groups in Sweden that Ankara regards as terrorists.

But Swedish ministers could not ignore the protests of Ms Kakabaveh, as her vote could have brought down the government in a knife-edge confidence ballot in June.

She eventually agreed to abstain, but cried foul when Sweden signed a deal with Turkey and Finland only weeks later in which they vowed to clamp down on the groups.

Ms Kakabaveh makes no secret of her past as a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter who joined a dissident group at the age of 13 and subsequently sought asylum in Sweden.

She was elected an MP as a member of the Left Party but lost the whip in 2019 after clashing with party leaders.

Updated: October 18, 2022, 2:57 PM
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