Liberals (Sweden)

Last updated

The Liberals
Leader Johan Pehrson
Party secretary Maria Nilsson
Parliamentary Group Leader Mats Persson
Founded5 August 1934;88 years ago (1934-08-05)
HeadquartersRiksgatan 2, Stockholm
Youth wing Liberal Youth of Sweden
Membership (2020)Decrease2.svg 12,179 [1]
Ideology Liberalism [2]
Social liberalism [3]
Classical liberalism [4]
Conservative liberalism [5] [6]
European federalism [7]
Political position Centre-right [8] [9] [10]
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliation Liberal International
European Parliament group Renew Europe
Nordic affiliation Centre Group
ColoursBlue and white
Riksdag [11]
20 / 349
European Parliament [12]
1 / 21
County councils [13]
94 / 1,696
Municipal councils [14]
689 / 12,700

The Liberals (Swedish : Liberalerna, L), known as the Liberal People's Party (Swedish : Folkpartiet liberalerna) until 22 November 2015, is a liberal [15] [16] [ needs update ] political party in Sweden. The Liberals ideologically shows a variety of liberal tendencies, including social liberalism, [3] conservative liberalism, [5] [6] and economic liberalism. [17] [18] The party is a member of the Liberal International and Renew Europe.


Historically the party was positioned in the centre of the Swedish political landscape, willing to cooperate with both the political left and the right. It has since the leaderships of Lars Leijonborg and Jan Björklund in the 2000s positioned itself more towards the right. [8] [19] [20] It was a part of the Alliance centre-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt from 2006 to 2014. The party's policies include action toward a free market economy and pushing for Sweden to join NATO and the Eurozone, as well as investing in nuclear power; [21] it also focuses on gender equality, the school system and quality education. [8] [19]

In February 2019, following the conclusion of government negotiations, Jan Björklund announced his intention to step down from the leadership position after 11 years at the helm of the Liberals. He was succeeded by Nyamko Sabuni in June 2019. [22] After the 2021 Swedish government crisis, the party withdrew their support for Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, and is now promoting a right-wing government together with the Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats, with support from the Sweden Democrats, with Ulf Kristersson as their Prime Minister candidate. In an interview with Dagens Nyheter in February 2022, Sabuni stated that the Sweden Democrats will "play an important role in an eventual right-wing government" and that she would not be hesitant to work and collaborate with them, stating that there is a possibility of Liberals supporting a Moderate-Christian Democrats-Sweden Democrats government, even if the Liberals are not included in the government. [23] Since the decision to collaborate with the Sweden Democrats, the party has adopted more right-wing populist policy, such as a more restrictive migration policy, easier withdrawal of citizenship for immigrants, and strong criticism of Muslim schools. [24] [25] [26]


2006 computer hacking scandal

On 4 September 2006, only weeks before the 2006 general election, the Social Democratic Party reported to the police that its internal network had been hacked into. It has been reported that members of the Liberal People's Party had copied secret information not yet officially released to counter-attack Social Democrat political propositions on at least two occasions. On 5 September the Party Secretary, Johan Jakobsson, voluntarily chose to resign. Leading members of the party and its youth organisation were under police investigation suspected for criminal activity. All members of the party were acquitted by the court however, while an official of the party's youth organisation, as well as one from the Social Democrats and a newspaper reporter, were found guilty. [29] [30] [31] [32] [33]


People's Party election workers, 1940 election Peoples-Party-election-activists-Sweden-election-1940.jpg
People's Party election workers, 1940 election

The official party ideology has historically been social liberalism, which translates as a strong ideological commitment to a mixed economy, with support for comprehensive but market-based welfare state programs.[ citation needed ]

While initially allied with the Swedish Social Democratic Party in the struggle for democracy (achieved in 1921) and social reform, the People's Party came to be part of the opposition from the thirties and onwards, opposing Social Democrat demands for nationalization of private businesses. It has stayed opposed to the Social Democrats ever since, often as the largest or second-largest party of the opposition block (called the non-socialists or "de borgerliga", approximately the bourgeois), but often equally critical towards parties on the right. Over time, this has shifted towards a more clear-cut rightwing role. In the mid-nineties the party seemed to have ruled out the alternative of co-operation with the Social Democrats, focusing instead on bringing them down by strengthening the opposition.[ citation needed ]

Foreign policy is another high-profile issue. Always oriented towards the United States and the United Kingdom, the party was a strong opponent of Communism and Nazism during the 20th century. While it was part of and supported the Swedish coalition government and its position of neutrality during World War II, the party advocated an active stance against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The party (alongside Moderaterna) actively supported the struggle of the Baltic peoples against the Soviet regime, whereas Social Democrats were wary of irritating the Soviets. [34] As a consequence, it suffered several sharply worded rebukes from the often-ruling Social Democrats for endangering Swedish relations with the Soviet Union. It also criticised what it perceived as Social Democrat tolerance of left-wing dictatorships in the third world, and supported the United States in the Vietnam War. After the end of the Cold War, it became the first Swedish party to call for abandoning the country's traditional neutrality in favor of joining NATO.[ citation needed ]

Among issues concerning the developing world, the party supported decolonization and advocated boycotting South Africa to help overthrow apartheid rule. It also opposed third world Communist dictatorships. Nowadays it is strongly supportive of Israel, and former Party leader Per Ahlmark has been especially vocal on the issue.[ citation needed ]

On the European level, the Liberal People's Party was strongly supportive of the emergence of the European Union and campaigned for Swedish entry into it (which happened in 1995). It also campaigned for joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, but this was voted down by the Swedes in a referendum in 2003. The party has aimed to come across as the most "pro-European" party, trying to break what it refers to as the country's "isolationist" mindset. It is supportive of EU enlargement, including letting Turkey join on condition of democratic reforms, and also advocates further integrative measures, with some members, including the youth organization, openly calling for a single federal European state.[ citation needed ]

In 2003 the Liberal People's Party supported the invasion of Iraq, but stopped short of demanding Swedish participation in the US-led "coalition of the willing". In recent years, and especially under the leadership of Jan Björklund, the party has moved markedly towards conservative liberalism in its social attitudes, taking tougher stands on areas such as crime and punishment, law and order, school and discipline as well as strengthening its abolitionist policies on drugs. In 2008 the Liberal People's Party's support for a controversial legislative change regulating the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) in particular upset its youth organisation.[ citation needed ]

Voter base

Support for the party is more marked among people above the age of 65, and tends to be higher among people who have completed more education. Its support is lowest among people with a pre-gymnasial education. [35]

Historically the party had a strong base in the 'free churches' (Protestant congregations not part of the state church that turned into powerful grassroots movements in the late 19th century), but with the exception of certain regions, that is not a significant feature today. Tensions between factions sometimes described as "the free religionists" and "the metropolitan liberals" (occasionally in the form of an open left-right conflict, with the "free religious" members emphasizing the social aspect over liberal economics) was an important part of party life until the seventies. It provoked a party split in the twenties, centred on the question of an alcohol ban, but differences were eventually repaired. (The re-merging of the parties in 1934 is one of the party's plethora of official creation dates, some others being 1895, 1900 and 1902, providing frequent cause for anniversary celebrations.)

Since the 2002 election, the party has been accused of trying to attract new voters by adopting right-wing populist rhetoric, although the party proposes to open Sweden's doors to economic migrants and to additional asylum seekers during their coalition with the Moderate Party. Former party leader Lars Leijonborg proposed a language test for immigrants who apply for Swedish citizenship. Jan Björklund, at the time the party's education spokesman and first deputy chairman, called on schoolteachers to report schoolchildren with extreme opinions to the intelligence services, something which has caused opposition from within the party, not least from the youth wing. The party has campaigned strongly against terrorism and criminality. While these tactics may have helped to more than double party support in the 2002 elections, they have also provoked accusations of betraying their original social liberal ideology from within leftist factions of the party, and led to criticism from the strong liberal press in Sweden. However the party, which has historically been the most pro-immigration Swedish party, has also proposed measures intended to make it easier for foreigners to visit relatives living in Sweden, and to ease restrictions on economic migrants, for which it has been opposed by the governing Social Democrats. In its policy on integration, the party supports more open immigration combined with measures to help new arrivals to integrate into Swedish society.

Affiliated organisations and international memberships

The party has a youth organization called Liberal Youth of Sweden (Liberala ungdomsförbundet, LUF), which has its own platform and maintains a separate organisation from the party. [36] Since 2019 its chairperson is Romina Pourmokhtari. [37]

There is also a women's organization called Liberal Women [38] (Liberala Kvinnor, LK, chairperson Cecilia Elving [39] ) and immigrants' organization called Liberal Mångfald, LM, (Liberal Multicultural Association, chairperson Anna Steele Karlström). Additionally, party members maintain a number of small ad hoc "networks" addressing specific issues. [40]

Representation in the EU institutions

The Liberals is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Liberal International. It is also part of Liberal organisations on the Nordic and Baltic levels. The party's MEP sits with Renew Europe parliamentary group (previously ALDE).

In the European Committee of the Regions, the Liberals sit in the Renew Europe CoR group with one full member for the 2020-2025 mandate. [41]

Electoral results


Election [42] Votes %Seats+/–Government
1936 376,16112.9 (#4)
27 / 230
Increase2.svg 3Opposition
1940 344,11312.0 (#3)
23 / 230
Decrease2.svg 4Coalition
1944 398,29312.9 (#4)
26 / 230
Increase2.svg 3Coalition (1944–1945)
Opposition (1945–1948)
1948 882,43722.7 (#2)
57 / 230
Increase2.svg 31Opposition
1952 924,81924.4 (#2)
58 / 230
Increase2.svg 1Opposition
1956 923,56423.8 (#2)
58 / 231
Steady2.svg 0Opposition
1958 700,01918.2 (#3)
38 / 231
Decrease2.svg 20Opposition
1960 744,14217.5 (#2)
40 / 232
Increase2.svg 2Opposition
1964 720,73317.0 (#2)
43 / 233
Increase2.svg 3Opposition
1968 688,45614.3 (#3)
34 / 233
Decrease2.svg 9Opposition
1970 806,66716.2 (#3)
58 / 350
Increase2.svg 24Opposition
1973 486,0289.4 (#4)
34 / 350
Decrease2.svg 24Opposition
1976 601,55611.1 (#4)
39 / 349
Increase2.svg 5Coalition (1976–1978)
Minority (1978–1979)
1979 577,06310.6 (#4)
38 / 349
Decrease2.svg 1Coalition
1982 327,7705.9 (#4)
21 / 349
Decrease2.svg 17Opposition
1985 792,26814.2 (#3)
51 / 349
Increase2.svg 30Opposition
1988 655,72012.2 (#3)
44 / 349
Decrease2.svg 7Opposition
1991 499,3569.1 (#3)
33 / 349
Decrease2.svg 11Coalition
1994 399,5567.2 (#4)
26 / 349
Decrease2.svg 7Opposition
1998 248,0764.7 (#6)
17 / 349
Decrease2.svg 9Opposition
2002 710,31213.4 (#3)
48 / 349
Increase2.svg 31Opposition
2006 418,3957.5 (#4)
28 / 349
Decrease2.svg 20Coalition
2010 420,5247.1 (#4)
24 / 349
Decrease2.svg 4Coalition
2014 336,9775.4 (#7)
19 / 349
Decrease2.svg 5Opposition
2018 355,5465.5 (#7)
20 / 349
Increase2.svg 1External support (2018–2021)
Opposition (2021–)
2022 297,5664.62 (#8)
16 / 349
Decrease2.svg 4TBD

European Parliament

1995 129,3764.8 (#6)
1 / 22
1999 350,33913.8 (#4)
3 / 22
Increase2.svg 2
2004 247,7509.9 (#5)
2 / 19
Decrease2.svg 1
2009 430,38513.6 (#3)
3 / 18
3 / 20
Increase2.svg 1
Steady2.svg 0
2014 368,5149.9 (#4)
2 / 20
Decrease2.svg 1
2019 171,4194.1 (#8)
1 / 20
Decrease2.svg 1

Party leaders

LeaderTook officeLeft office
Gustaf Andersson 193528 September 1944
Bertil Ohlin 28 September 19441967
Sven Wedén 196726 September 1969
Gunnar Helén 19697 November 1975
Per Ahlmark 7 November 19754 March 1978
Ola Ullsten 4 March 19781 October 1983
Bengt Westerberg 1 October 19834 February 1995
Maria Leissner 4 February 199515 March 1997
Lars Leijonborg 15 March 19977 September 2007
Jan Björklund 7 September 200728 June 2019
Nyamko Sabuni 28 June 20198 April 2022
Johan Pehrson 8 April 2022Incumbent


See also

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Events of 2019 in Sweden


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