Four male politicians in Sweden


Two days ago I wrote about four female politicians in Sweden: Maria Leissner, Nyamko Sabuni, Anna Lindh and Maria Wetterstrand. When I write my texts I want to be fair in my judgement and give you as readers a mix of everything. Today I have chosen four male counterparts to the women I’ve chosen. The portraits you see I made yesterday. The men I’ve picked this time are Bengt Westerberg, former party leader of the People’s Party, Fredrik Reinfeldt, party leader of the Conservative party and since 2006 our present Prime Minister here in Sweden, Luciano Astudillo, an active and sharp politician and former MP from the Social Democrats here in Malmoe and finally Gustav Fridolin, spokesman from The Environment Party – The Green.

Bengt Westerberg: He was born in Solna in 1943 and grew up in Södertälje. As a young man he studied first medicine and then political economy. In 1965 he started his commitment within the FPU, People’s Party’s Youth Organization and became in 1966 its leader. Ten years later he got a call from the party leader then Per Gahrton and asked to become specialist at the Department of Labour Market. Between 1978 and 1982 Bengt Westerberg was working as parliamentary under-secretary within the Department of Industry and Budget respectively. He was then working for the government Fälldin II. The People’s Party/Folkpartiet demanded lowered marginal taxes and made a deal with the Centre Party and the Social Democrats during what has been called “The Wonderful Night”. In October 1983 Bengt Westerberg became the new Party Leader of the People’s Party. He criticized the Social Democrats for their suggested employee funds and called it “the tyranny in small steps”. In 1985 Westerberg was interviewed on TV. He gave clear, understandable answers and his party rose from 5 to 10,5 %. In the following election the People’s Party gained 14,2% of the votes. This was called “The Westerberg effect”. In November 1988 The People’s Party and the Social Democrats made a deal about the Swedish taxation system. Three years later a new populist, xenofobic party had appeared on the scene called Ny Demokrati/New Democracy. That year the Social Democrats lost power and Sweden got a Conservative-Liberal government led by Carl Bildt from the Conservative Party/Moderaterna. Westerberg stated that he didn’t want to be in a government if they had to be supported by the xenofobic party Ny Demokrati. In a TV interview in 1991 when the party leaders were supposed to discuss, and Ny Demokrati’s party leaders came in Bengt Westerberg rose from the sofa and went out in protest. In the new government Bengt Westerberg became Minister of Social issues. Because of the financial crisis then he had to lower the level of financial support, but in 1994 he introduced a handicap reform and a so called “father month”/pappamånad, which gave fathers the right to stay home and take care of their small children. Westerberg also introduced a house doctor system and care giving support for parents. In 1993 gender equality issues appeared on his department and he became Minister of Gender Equality. He was given the title “Woman of Honours” by Kvinnor Kan/Women Are Able during a meeting in Östersund. Nevertheless the government lost power again and the People’s Party got less votes. Westerberg ended his career as party leader in 1995. During the following years Bengt Westerberg has been a professional Board Member within e.g. The Financial Inspection, The Swedish Inistitute, Linköping University, The Association The Humanists and the Institute for Future Studies. He has also been Head of the Swedish Red Cross but was in 2010 harshly criticized for his high salary. In 2011 Westerberg was given the task by the present government as special investigator of xenofobia. It was in that role I met him here in Malmoe in October that year. In the official report SOU 2012:74 he suggests that 650 Million kronor should be given to educate teachers in xenofobia. He also want to support Forum för levande historia/Forum for living history, The Youth Board and Swedish-Israel Information.

Fredrik Reinfeldt was born in 1965. As a youth he acted on stage in comedy plays, was head of the pupils’ council in School and an active athlete. After the military service Fredrik Reinfeldt took a Degree of Master of Science at Stockholm University in 1990. In 1982 he had become a member of the Conservative Party’s Youth Organization and became its leader in 1992. The year after he released the book “Det sovande folket”/The Sleeping People” in which he criticized the well fare state and argued for a neo liberal society. “We don’t want to see a society where people starve, but otherwise no standard demands should be financed by taxes”, he wrote. After the Conservative-Liberal government’s loss of power in 1994 Fredrik Reinfeldt criticized Carl Bildt for being too dominant. Reinfeldt also wrote the book Nostalgitrippen/The Journey of Nostalgia where he criticized ten members of the Conservative Board. He was called to a meeting and scolded. After that he reduced his criticism. In 1999 Fredrik Reinfeldt was elected into Parliament’s Board of Trustees. Between 2001 and 2002 he was head of the judicial group in Parliament and deputy master in the financial group. In 2003 Fredrik Reinfeldt was elected new party leader. In the elections in September 2006 the Conservative Party gained power again in a coalition with The People’s Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats. Reinfeldt now called his party “De Nya Moderaterna”/The New Conservatives”, but also the new labour party. During his time in power the present government has changeed the rights for working people, LAS, the law for employment protection, has had low priority just as the protection taxes. The Conservative party which is the dominant party in the government abolished the wealth tax and housing tax, which has benefitted middle and upper class. When the last financial crisis hit the world in the autumn of 2008 Sweden was the country in Europe that succeeded to deal with it in the best way and even if we have problems the situation is even worse in many other countries. This is also the situation now and in the last voters poll in February 2013 the Conservative party has 28% of the voter sympathies.

Luciano Astudillo was born in Santiago, Chile in 1972. He grew up in the suburb Holma here in Malmoe. At the age of 16 Luciano Astudillo became a member of the Social Democratic Youth Organization, SSU. He became the leader of SSU Malmoe in 1994 and presided there for two years. In 1995 Luciano Astudillo was elected in the Party Board responsible for equality and integration issues. In 1999 he was a candidate for the post as Head of the local Party Group but lost. The post was given to Mikael Damberg. 1998- 2002 Luciano Astudillo was Member of the Municipality Rule and political secretary for the Social Democrats. Malmoe Municipality is dominated by the Social Democrats and the party has a long history in this city since it was here the Swedish movement was born in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Between 2002 and 2006 Luciano Astudillo was a substitute in Parliament for the Social Democrat Prime Minister of that time Göran Persson. Between 2006 and 2010 Luciano Astudillo was a Member of Parliament, but lost his place that year. Today he has a company of his own and is still active as politician. He also proudly gives financial support to the anti-racist organization Expo. I have only met Luciano Astudillo a few times. I can’t say that I know him, but I have noticed his dedication and his wonderful fervor for important issues. I also remember his speech on the Möllevång Square in August 2012 during “the kippa walk” in defence of Malmoe’s Jewish Congregation and against all forms of xenofobia. It was a brilliant speech and I was very moved my it. Luciano Astudillo is a man and a politician worthy of respect and admiration. That’s why I chose to write about him.

Gustav Fridolin was born in Önnestad here in Scania/Skåne in 1983. At the age of 11 Gustav Fridolin became a member of the Environment Party the Green after having listened to Birger Schlaug talking on TV about the cut-downs in school. One year later Gustav Fridolin made his debut with a speech during a party congress in Alingsås, outside Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg/Göteborg. At the age of 19 Fridolin became the youngest Member of Parliament in Swedish Parliamentary history. That was in 2002. Fridolin is also a journalist and school teacher. On New Year’s Eve 2003 he was arrested by Israeli military in the village of Budrus on the West Bank during a study trip, but he was soon released. In 2004 Fridolin was in the constitutionary committee that investigated the acts of the then Social Democratic government in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster. In 2006 Gustav Fridolin was launched as a minister candidate for a potential red-green government. When Fridolin lost his place in Parliament in 2006 he refused to accept the guaranteed pension that is common for MP’s who leave. Between 2006 and 2009 he was working for TV4 and “Kalla fakta” /Cold facts as a reporter and made several interesting reports. In 2008 he was nominated for “This year’s environment journalist”. He has also written three books. The latest one from 2011 called “Maskiner och Människor: en skrift om arbete och framtidstro”/Machine and Man: a text about work and belief in the future. That book was noticed and appreciated also by Conservative debaters, also the so called Almedalsveckan/the week in Alemdalen on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. In 2011 Gustav Fridolin was elected as one of two spokes persons for the Environment Party the Green together with his female counterpart Åsa Romson. It’s in this position he is now. In the latest voters poll from February 2013 his party has reached over 11% of the voter sympathies and is now Sweden’s third largest. I must say that I with my ideology rather see the Environment Party as third largest than the Swedish Democrats. I hope that Fridolin and Romson will gain even more.

Anders Moberg, February the 24th 2013






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