VBefore the 2018 election, Ulf Kristersson made a promise. Like other top Swedish politicians at the time, the leader of the bourgeois moderates also visited Holocaust survivor Hédi Fried, a moral authority in the country. Fried warned of the threat to democracy she saw looming. Kristersson, she said later, promised never to agree to any cooperation with the Sweden Democrats. Now, after Sunday’s election, there is every indication that Ulf Kristersson will become the new prime minister – and that his government will depend on support from the right-wing populists.
Kristersson was born in Lund in December 1963 and grew up near Eskilstuna, a good 100 kilometers west of Stockholm. Since he took over the leadership of the moderates at the end of 2017, he has been wondering how the party should deal with the Sweden Democrats.
Right-wing populists were isolated in parliament for a long time. Kristersson’s predecessor as party leader stumbled when she once raised the possibility of working together. After the 2018 election, Kristersson tried to get himself confirmed as prime minister in parliament, but two bourgeois parties refused to support him – they wanted to prevent any influence from the Sweden Democrats.
turning away from past vows
One of the two, the Liberals, has reversed that decision. You have returned to the middle-class camp and, like Kristersson, made it clear before the election that you are ready to have the Sweden Democrats support you. So it will come now.
Kristersson, who is married and adopted three girls from China with his wife, attracted attention early on in his party. The economist moved into the Reichstag in 1991 and was chairman of the youth association until 1992 – until he was defeated in the board elections Fredrik Reinfeldt lost. Reinfeldt belonged to the conservative wing, Kristersson to the liberal. Reinfeldt was prime minister from 2006 to 2014, and Kristersson served as minister for four years. After his electoral defeat, Reinfeldt wrote a book.
He described the Sweden Democrats as a party that essentially unites racists and xenophobia and attracts voters who are dissatisfied with their lives and the area in which they live. Kristersson, however, officially received Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of this party, for the first time a good year after meeting Hédi Fried.
Now he has to negotiate the price for supporting the right-wing populists with Åkesson. It shouldn’t be easy, the Sweden Democrats have risen to become the second strongest force in parliament – Kristersson’s moderates are only in third place.