Christian Democrats (Sweden)

The Christian Democrats (Swedish: Kristdemokraterna, KD) is a Christian-democratic[9] 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.[10] She succeeded Göran Hägglund, who had been leader since 2004.

Christian Democrats

LeaderEbba Busch Thor
Founded1964 (1964)
HeadquartersMunkbron 1, Stockholm
Christian democracy[1]
Political positionCentre-right[2][3] to right-wing[4]
European affiliationEuropean People's Party
International affiliationCentrist Democrat International
European Parliament groupEuropean People's Party
Nordic affiliationCentre Group
ColoursBlue, white
22 / 349
European Parliament[6]
2 / 20
County councils[7]
119 / 1,696
Municipal councils[8]
676 / 12,700

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 KD was a minor party in the centre-right Alliance coalition government led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt until his resignation in 2014.


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


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.

Early start

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.

Real breakthrough

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.

Alliance cabinet

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.[11] 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.[12]

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,[13] 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.[14][15] Some claim that this was not followed up by any political suggestions in the 2010 general election,[16] where the party declined once again. Hägglund was criticized for not being controversial enough by MP Ebba Busch,[17] and it was suggested that around a third of the party's representatives would like him to resign.[18]

The politics of the Young Christian Democrats have shifted to the right in the past few years,[19] a change that has been attributed to many conservative ex-members of the Moderate Party joining the organization.[20] 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.[21] The latter group has founded a network called FFFF (Freedom, family, diligence and enterprise), a group that has clear influences from Thatcherism.[21] 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.[22]

Voter base

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.

The party is a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and the Centrist Democrat International (CDI).

Christian Democratic Politicians

Party chairman

1964–1972Birger Ekstedt
1973–2004Alf Svensson
2004–2015Göran Hägglund
2015–Ebba Busch Thor

Vice chairman

1964-1968Lewi Pethrus
1968–1979Åke Gafvelin
1979–1982Ernst Johansson
1982–1985Maj-Lis Palo
1985–1993Jan Erik Ågren
1993–2003Inger Davidson
2003–2015Maria Larsson
2015–Jakob Forssmed

Second vice chairman

1965–1976Sven Enlund
1976–1979Jona Eriksson
1979–1982Maj-Lis Palo
1982–1987Stig Nyman
1987–1989Rose-Marie Frebran
1989–1990Britt-Marie Laurell
1990–1993Ingrid Näslund
1993–2003Anders Andersson
2003–2004Göran Hägglund
2004–2012Mats Odell (Minister of Communications 1991–1994)
2012–2015David Lega
2015–2017Emma Henriksson
2017–Lars Adaktusson

Party secretary

1964–1972Bertil Carlsson
1972–1978Stig Nyman
1978–1985Per Egon Johansson
1985–1989Dan Ericsson
1989–1991Inger Davidson (Minister of civil infrastructure 1991–1994)
1991–1993Lars Lindén (MP 2002–2008)
1994–2002Sven Gunnar Persson (MP 2002–2008)
2002–2006Urban Svensson
2006–2010Lennart Sjögren
2010–2018Acko Ankarberg Johansson
2018–Peter Kullgren

Group leader in the Riksdag

1991–2002Göran Hägglund
2002–2010Stefan Attefall
2010–2012Mats Odell
2012–2015Emma Henriksson
2015–Andreas Carlson

Other famous Christian democrats

Affiliated organisations

Election results

Parliament (Riksdag)

Year Votes % ± pp Seats ± Government Rank
1964 75,389 1.8 (#6) +1.8
0 / 350
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1968 72,377 1.5 (#7) −0.3
0 / 350
0 Extra-parliamentary 7th
1970 88,770 1.8 (#6) +0.3
0 / 350
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1973 90,388 1.8 (#6) 0.0
0 / 350
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1976 73,844 1.4 (#6) −0.4
0 / 349
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1979 75,993 1.4 (#6) 0.0
0 / 349
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1982 103,820 1.9 (#6) +0.2
0 / 349
0 Extra-parliamentary 6th
1985 131,548 2.4 (#6) +0.5
1 / 349
1 Opposition 6th
1988 158,182 2.9 (#7) +0.5
0 / 349
1 Extra-parliamentary 7th
1991 390,351 7.1 (#5) +4.2
26 / 349
26 Government 5th
1994 225,974 4.1 (#7) −3.0
15 / 349
11 Opposition 7th
1998 619,046 11.8 (#4) +7.7
42 / 349
27 Opposition 4th
2002 485,235 9.2 (#4) −2.6
33 / 349
9 Opposition 4th
2006 365,998 6.6 (#5) −2.6
24 / 349
9 Government 5th
2010 333,696 5.6 (#8) −1.0
19 / 349
5 Government 8th
2014 284,011 4.6 (#8) −1.0
16 / 349
3 Opposition 8th
2018 409,478 6.3 (#6) +1.7
22 / 349
6 Opposition 6th

European Parliament

Election year # of overall votes % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
1995 105,173 3.92
0 / 22
1999 193,354 7.64
2 / 22
2004 142,704 5.68
1 / 19
2009 148,141 4.68
1 / 18
2014 220,574 5.93
1 / 20
2019 357,856 8.62
2 / 20

Others assemblies

Regional Elections1.8%1.9%2.1%1.9%2.0%2.4%2.0%3.1%7.0%3.7%10.0%8.2%6.6%5.1%
Municipal Elections1.8%2.1%2.0%2.1%2.4%2.0%2.8%5.8%3.2%8.0%7.1%5.8%4.4%

* – 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.


  • Niels Arbøl, Kristdemokraterna en världsrörelse (Samhällsgemenskap, 1986) ISBN 91-85036-22-6
  • Cecilia Hjort Attefall, Partiet som lyfte: 40 år med svensk kristdemokrati: 1964-2004 (Samhällsgemenskap, 2004) ISBN 91-85036-52-8
  • Birger Ekstedt, KDS - en politisk nödvändighet (Samhällsgemenskap, 1970)
  • Göran V. Johansson, Kristen Demokrati På Svenska (Liber, 1985) ISBN 91-40-05103-X
  • Erik Lindfeldt, Moralpartiet. En bok om KdS (Carlssons, 1991) ISBN 91-7798-433-1
  • Bernt Olsson, Upprinnelsen - Om Kristdemokraternas första tid i Sverige (Samhällsgemenskap, 2004) ISBN 91-85036-56-0
  • Allan Sandström, KDS - Partiet bakom fromhetsvallen (LT, 1979) ISBN 91-36-01329-3
  • Alf Svensson, I Tiden, från motvind till uppvindar (Samhällsgemenskap, 1984) ISBN 91-85036-10-2
  • Kristdemokratisk Debatt (paper published by the party between 1992–2003) ISSN 1103-1522

See also

Further reading

  • Madeley, John T.S. (2004). Steven Van Hecke; Emmanuel Gerard (eds.). Life at the Northern Margin: Christian Democracy in Scandinavia. Christian Democratic Parties in Europe Since the End of the Cold War. Leuven University Press. pp. 217–241. ISBN 90-5867-377-4.


  1. Nordsieck, Wolfram (2018). "Sweden". Parties and Elections in Europe. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. The local - Kristdemokraterna Archived 12 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Josep M. Colomer (25 July 2008). Political Institutions in Europe. Routledge. pp. 261–. ISBN 978-1-134-07354-2.
  4. Löfgren, Emma. "Christian Democrat party leadership race heats up". The Local. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  5. "2018: Val till riksdagen - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  6. "European Parliamentary election results". Election Authority (Sweden). 2019-05-31.
  7. "2018: Val till landstingsfullmäktige - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  8. "2018: Val till kommunfullmäktige - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  9. Slomp, Hans (26 September 2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 433. ISBN 9780313391828. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. "KD till höger med Ebba Busch Thor" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. 25 April 2015.
  11. SR/Swedish Radio: Kd-ledaren står fast vid kritiserat abortförslag Archived 6 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine in Swedish
  12. SR/Swedish Radio: Förre kd-ledaren till attack mot arbetsmarknadspolitiken in Swedish
  13. "Håll Europa fritt från snus". Ella Bohlin. Archived from the original on 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  14. "Tal i Almedalen 2009". Göran Hägglund. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012.
  15. "Sätt stopp för kulturdekadensen". Göran Hägglund. Archived from the original on 2012-09-13.
  16. "KD utan kompass". Expressen. Archived from the original on 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  17. "Nu behövs det kristdemokratiskt jävlar annama". Ebba Busch. Archived from the original on 2012-04-01.
  18. "En av fyra vill att Hägglund avgår". Alliansfritt Sverige.
  19. "Högerfalangen har helt tagit makten i KDU". Daniel Sturesson, SvD.
  20. "Arton KDU:are varnar för högervridning". Tidningen kristdemokraten.
  21. "Många nyanser av kristdemokraterna". Fokus.
  22. "Aron Modig vill se Svenskt Tea Party". Världen idag.
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