Christian Democrats (Sweden)
The Christian Democrats (Swedish: Kristdemokraterna, KD) is a Christian-democratic political party in Sweden. The party was founded in 1964. It first entered parliament in 1985, through electoral cooperation with the Centre Party, and in 1991 broke through to win seats by itself. The party leader since 25 April 2015 has been Ebba Busch Thor. She succeeded Göran Hägglund, who had been leader since 2004.
|Leader||Ebba Busch Thor|
|Headquarters||Munkbron 1, Stockholm|
|Political position||Centre-right to right-wing|
|European affiliation||European People's Party|
|International affiliation||Centrist Democrat International|
|European Parliament group||European People's Party|
|Nordic affiliation||Centre Group|
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The party name was for a long time abbreviated KDS until 1996, when the abbreviation became KD as the name changed from the Christian Democratic Unity to the Christian Democrats.
The four most important issues for the party are:
- Improving the care of the elderly
- Freedom of choice for families with children in selecting their childcare
- Decreasing regulations on companies
- Lowering taxes to promote growth and combat unemployment
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Reasons for founding the party
The party had its roots in a movement against the Swedish government's decision in 1963 to remove religious education from the elementary school syllabus. An organisation called "Christian Social Responsibility", which would later become the Christian Democratic Unity, organised several marches against the decision, one of which became one of the largest in Swedish modern history. Despite the public outcry and over 2.1 million protest signatures, the decision went through. The group that had worked in the campaign felt it was a sign that Swedish politics needed a Christian Democratic Party.
The political and social origins of the Swedish Christian Democrats clearly differ from those of the European continental Christian Democratic parties (as in Italy or Germany). In those countries, Christian Democracy represented the mainstream of the social-conservative political forces and was closely tied to majoritarian religious practice. In Sweden, however, Christian Democracy emerged as a minority grouping amongst the centre-right forces and was tied to minority-religious tendencies in society (particularly among voters associated with the Free Churches) and likeminded Lutherans.
In the beginning of 1964 Lewi Pethrus, founder of the Swedish Pentecostal movement and chief editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagen, discussed the idea of a Swedish Christian democratic party on the editorial pages of Dagen. He stated that many people had contacted him about the idea and that the current Swedish political climate was dominated by atheist economic materialism.
Principal Algot Tergel hosted a conference on 7 February of the same year. The topic of the conference was "Christianity and Politics", and during the conference the idea of starting a Christian Democratic Party was discussed. A committee consisting of Pethrus and eight other Free Church leaders was formed.
A large and widespread debate followed the decision to create the committee. Dagen published an interview with Kjell Bondevik, the leader of the Norwegian Christian Democratic Party, and there were talks about creating a Christian Democratic Party in Finland as well.
On 20 March 1964 the party was founded as Christian Democratic Unity (Kristen Demokratisk Samling). At first it was only an organisation, but at a board meeting later that year it was decided that the organisation would be revamped into a party and that it would compete in the national elections in Sweden. The first roughly 100 members elected Birger Ekstedt to the post of party chair and Lewi Pethrus to the post of vice chair.
The party grew rapidly; by the end of the year it had 14,500 members.
During its early years the KDS was sometimes called the "Air and Water" party because of its strong emphasis on environmental politics. At that time the Green Party of Sweden did not exist, and thus the Christian Democratic Unity had a unique appeal with its environmentally friendly policies. In the Swedish national elections of 1964 the party gained 1.8% of the vote, not enough to get any seats in the Riksdag, but the party already had influence at the municipal level. In the municipal elections of 1966 the party gained 354 seats.
At this time the established major parties of Sweden began discussing new ways of making it more difficult for minor parties to enter the Riksdag. In 1971 the Riksdag was reformed, and with this came the D'Hondt method of allocating seats. The threshold was set at 4%, which meant that the political breakthrough was far away for the KDS.
Birger Ekstedt died in 1972, aged 51, only a few days after having been reelected as the party chair. An emergency congress was called; there Alf Svensson, the relatively unknown chair of the youth wing of the party, was elected chair. Svensson was to become one of the most important figures in modern Swedish politics. In the national elections of 1973 the party gained 1.8% of the vote, the same result as in the two preceding elections.
Before the national elections of 1976 there was a strong call for a change to a right-wing government in Sweden. The organisation "Vote right-wing" was formed to promote the change to a right-wing government. The KDS, however, announced a desire not to be placed on the traditional right-wing/left-wing scale, a measurement system it felt was outdated. Therefore, the "Vote right-wing" organisation started a campaign of negative campaigning against the KDS with the slogan "Don't vote for KDS, don't throw away your vote" as the KDS had not reached the 4% threshold at the last elections. The effect of this large campaign on a small and relatively new party like the KDS was disastrous, and it gained only 1.4% of the vote in the 1976 election.
At the start of the 1980s, the party revamped its entire political manifesto. The party abandoned its conservative stance on abortion and instead assumed a moderate pro-choice stance and adopted a plank to work to lower the total number of abortions in Sweden through encouragement of individual voluntary measures instead. In the 1980 nuclear power referendums the party supported the "no" campaign, which meant opposing any further construction of new nuclear power-plants in Sweden and advocating the phasing-out of all nuclear power plants in Sweden within 10 years, together with increased investments in alternative energy.
In 1982 the Christian Democratic Women's league was founded, and the party gained 1.9% of the votes, for the first time getting more than 100,000 votes.
Way into the Riksdag
As early as 1978 the KDS discussed the idea of electoral cooperation with the Centre Party. Similar ideas were discussed before the 1982 elections but were never put into action. One of the proponents of such a collaboration was the then secretary of information Mats Odell. The party officially took a stance against a socialist government, which effectively put them together with the right-wing block.
The negotiations were difficult, but in 1984 the Centre Party and KDS agreed to run under a joint banner in the next year's elections under the name Centern ("The Centre").
The deal, which was heavily criticised by the Swedish Social Democratic Party, meant that each party had its own voting ticket but that the Centre Party should nominate a Christian Democratic candidate on at least five of the regional candidacy lists. The Centre Party ticket would win over the KDS ticket almost everywhere, but this way there would be at least five Christian Democrats in the Riksdag. The Centre Party did not fulfil its promise, however, and put a Christian Democrat on the list only in the municipality of Kalmar. This resulted in great tensions within the Christian Democrats; one of the party icons, the environmental activist Björn Gillberg, left the party. However, Alf Svensson managed to get into the Riksdag through the KDS party ticket in Jönköping.
In 1987 the party manifesto was revamped once again (although not so heavily as the last time), and the party changed its name to Christian Democratic Social Party (Kristdemokratiska Samhällspartiet), while keeping the KDS abbreviation. In the 1988 national elections the party grew significantly and gained 2.8% of the votes. But the Centre Party did not wish any further electoral cooperation, and Alf Svensson had to leave the Riksdag. Something had happened, however. The party was now recognised as one of the major parties in Sweden, and Svensson had become famous. According to many opinion polls, he was the most popular politician in the entire nation.
Several famous people joined the party, and in the right-wing breakthrough national elections of 1991 the party grew explosively yet again and gained over 7% of the votes. The right-wing bloc gained a majority, and KDS formed a government with the right-wing bloc. Several Christian Democrats got positions within the new government: Alf Svensson as the minister of foreign aid (and vice foreign minister), Inger Davidson as minister of civilian infrastructure, and Mats Odell as minister of communications.
After the right-wing bloc lost the 1994 general election, the KDS managed to stay in the Riksdag and had assumed a steady position within Swedish national politics. In 1996 it changed its name to the current form, Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna), switching the abbreviation form to KD, in a gesture perceived by elements both inside and outside the party as helping deflect the belief that it was a strictly religious party. In 1998 the party had its best elections ever, gaining over 11% of the votes; it established itself as the fourth-largest party in the Riksdag, becoming larger than its former electoral partner the Centre Party. In the 2002 national elections the party got fewer votes but still held on to its position as the fourth-largest party.
In 2004 Svensson stepped down in favor of his long-designated successor Göran Hägglund.
At the end of 2005 the party had 24,202 confirmed members, making it the fourth-largest party in size as well. Its membership is far more stable than most parties in Sweden. The Christian Democrats are represented in almost every municipality and region in Sweden.
As a member of the Alliance for Sweden, the winning side in the 2006 general election, the Christian Democrats got three minister posts in the Cabinet of Fredrik Reinfeldt. The minister posts were held by Göran Hägglund, Mats Odell and Maria Larsson. Unlike the Moderate Party and the Liberal People's Party, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party avoided scandals for personal conduct and accusations for espionage against the competing Social Democratic Party.
Hägglund, however, received criticism internally for defending the party's pro-choice stance on abortion, which some older members believed had contributed to the decline of the party in recent years. The Alliance cabinet's stance against unemployment and sick-listed benefits have been criticised by former party leader Alf Svensson, while the Sven-Otto Littorin of the Moderate Party went into aggressive counterattack, but the Christian Democratic ministers were silent.
Decline and internal strife
Support of the Christian Democrats significantly declined in the European elections of 2009, where the former party leader Alf Svensson got the party's sole seat in the European Parliament at the expense of the party's top candidate Ella Bohlin. Though Bohlin had run her campaign with a focus on limiting alcohol and outlawing traditional Swedish snuff, Göran Hägglund stated in a speech two weeks after the elections that he wanted to "prohibit the prohibitions" and spoke about the difference between the values of the "people of reality" and the left-wing cultural elite. Some claim that this was not followed up by any political suggestions in the 2010 general election, where the party declined once again. Hägglund was criticized for not being controversial enough by MP Ebba Busch, and it was suggested that around a third of the party's representatives would like him to resign.
The politics of the Young Christian Democrats have shifted to the right in the past few years, a change that has been attributed to many conservative ex-members of the Moderate Party joining the organization. Swedish political news magazine Fokus has stated that the conflict on traditional Christian moral questions (abortion, gay rights, stem cell research) is secondary to the conflict between those who want a Christian democratic centrist party focused on social responsibility and environmental questions, and those who want a traditional right-wing party focusing on anti-elitism and economic liberalism. The latter group has founded a network called FFFF (Freedom, family, diligence and enterprise), a group that has clear influences from Thatcherism. Christian Democratic youth leader Aron Modig has stated that he wants the Christian Democrats to become the "Tea Party" of Sweden, and push the government when it fails to present a likeminded vision of society.
Ideologically the KD is a centre-right Christian democratic party. Historically a large part of its voter base lay among those who belong to evangelical fellowships known in Sweden as free churches (Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, etc.) together with likeminded Lutherans (such as Göran Hägglund and Mats Odell). These churches have many followers in Småland, the region in which the party is politically strongest. Important voter groups are senior citizens, families and citizens that belong to the upper-middle class.
Christian Democratic Politicians
|2015–||Ebba Busch Thor|
|1985–1993||Jan Erik Ågren|
Second vice chairman
|2004–2012||Mats Odell (Minister of Communications 1991–1994)|
|1978–1985||Per Egon Johansson|
|1989–1991||Inger Davidson (Minister of civil infrastructure 1991–1994)|
|1991–1993||Lars Lindén (MP 2002–2008)|
|1994–2002||Sven Gunnar Persson (MP 2002–2008)|
|2010–2018||Acko Ankarberg Johansson|
Group leader in the Riksdag
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* – This type of election did not occur this year because of the electoral system.
** – The Christian Democrats stood on a joint list with the Centre Party, and thus no separate election results. The number supplied is the number of tickets with Christian Democratic candidates that were voted with under the common name.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kristdemokraterna.|
- Kristdemokraterna - Official site (in Swedish)
- Christian Democratic Women's League (in Swedish)
- Christian Democratic Senior League (in Swedish)
- Christian Democratic Youth League (in Swedish)
- Christian Democratic Student League (in Swedish)
- CIVITAS - Christian Democratic Foundation (in Swedish)
- The Christian Democrat - Christian Democratic newspaper on the net (in Swedish)
- EPP - Christian Democratic group in the European Parliament (in Swedish)