Liberals (Sweden)

The Liberals (Swedish: Liberalerna, L) is a liberal[16][17] political party in Sweden. It was a part of the Alliance centre-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt from 2006 to 2014. The party is the seventh-largest party in the Swedish Riksdag. Until 22 November 2015 it was known as the Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet liberalerna). The party is a member of the Liberal International and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.


LeaderNyamko Sabuni
Party secretaryJuno Blom
Parliamentary Group LeaderJohan Pehrson
Founded5 August 1934
HeadquartersRiksgatan 2, Stockholm
Youth wingLiberal Youth of Sweden
Social liberalism[1][2]
Conservative liberalism[3][4]
Economic liberalism[5][6][7]

Liberal feminism[8]
Political positionCentre-right[9][10][11]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliationLiberal International
European Parliament groupRenew Europe
Nordic affiliationCentre Group
ColoursBlue, orange
20 / 349
European Parliament[13]
1 / 20
County councils[14]
94 / 1,696
Municipal councils[15]
689 / 12,700

While the party historically 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.[9][18][19] 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; it also focuses on gender equality, the school system and quality education.[9][18]

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.[20]


  • 1809: The first liberal party is formed after a coup d'état ends 20 years of royal autocracy under the Union and Security Act; it may be the first party in the world to use the word "liberal" in its name.
  • 1902: The Free-minded National Association (Frisinnade Landsföreningen) is formed as the first liberal party with a national grassroots organisation. It is heavily reliant on the "free religious" church movement.
  • 1910: After women become eligible to be elected to municipal councils in Sweden, suffragette Valborg Olander is elected to the Falun city council for the Liberal Party.
  • 1923: The Free-minded National Association splits over alcohol prohibition; the anti-ban minority forms the Liberal Party of Sweden. The Free-minded would come to lead several governments during the coming years.
  • 1934: The parties reconcile and form the People's Party (Folkpartiet), i.e. the party in its present form.
  • 1939–45: It takes part in a wartime coalition government comprising all parties except the communists. Sweden remains neutral during the Second World War.
  • 1976: It enters a three-party government ending 44 years of Social Democratic Party rule (excepting the wartime emergency grand coalition).
  • 1978: The People's Party forms a short-lived minority government by itself, with chairperson Ola Ullsten as prime minister. Hans Blix served as a foreign minister.
  • 1979: A new attempt at a three-party coalition is made.
  • 1980–82: It forms a two-party coalition government with the Centre Party.
  • 1990: It adds Liberal to its name to become the Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet liberalerna).
  • 1991–94: It forms part of a four-party centre-right coalition government under Moderate Party leader Carl Bildt.
  • 2002: It more than doubles its vote share and comes close to being the second-largest party in Riksdag elections; party leader Lars Leijonborg fails to unite a green-liberal four-party coalition government with passive Moderate support.
  • 2006–14: It forms part of the Alliance four-party centre-right coalition government under Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt.
  • 2015: It changes its name from the Liberal People's Party to the Liberals (Liberalerna).
  • 2018: It, together with the Centre Party, voted down a proposed Moderate-Christian Democrat government led by Ulf Kristersson after concerns that such a government would be dependent on the Sweden Democrats for support.
  • 2019: It, together with the Centre Party, voted to tolerate a Social Democratic-Green government led by Stefan Löfven after coming up with a 73-point agreement. Jan Bjorklund also announced he will step down as party leader and will not stand in the party's autumn leadership contest.[21]

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.[22][23][24][25][26]


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.

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.

Foreign aid and women's equality were very important issues for the party in the past, and today the party advocates liberal feminism and giving a full percent of the gross national income as foreign aid.

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.[27] 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.[28]

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. [29] Since 2016 its chairperson is Joar Forssell.[30]

There is also a women's organization called Liberal Women[31] (Liberala Kvinnor, LK, chairperson Cecilia Elving[32]) 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.[33]

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 MEPs sit with Renew Europe parliamentary group (previously ALDE).

Election results

Year Votes % Seats +/– Government
1936 376,161 12.9 (#4)
27 / 230
3 in opposition
1940 344,113 12.0 (#3)
23 / 230
4 in government
1944 398,293 12.9 (#4)
26 / 230
3 in government
1948 882,437 22.7 (#2)
57 / 230
31 in opposition
1952 924,819 24.4 (#2)
58 / 230
1 in opposition
1956 923,564 23.8 (#2)
58 / 231
0 in opposition
1958 700,019 18.2 (#3)
38 / 231
20 in opposition
1960 744,142 17.5 (#2)
40 / 232
2 in opposition
1964 720,733 17.0 (#3)
43 / 233
3 in opposition
1968 688,456 14.3 (#3)
34 / 233
9 in opposition
Unicameral Riksdag
1970 806,667 16.2 (#3)
58 / 350
24 in opposition
1973 486,028 9.4 (#4)
34 / 350
24 in opposition
1976 601,556 11.1 (#4)
39 / 349
5 in government
1979 577,063 10.6 (#4)
38 / 349
1 in government
1982 327,770 5.9 (#4)
21 / 349
17 in opposition
1985 792,268 14.2 (#3)
51 / 349
30 in opposition
1988 655,720 12.2 (#3)
44 / 349
7 in opposition
1991 499,356 9.1 (#3)
33 / 349
11 in government
1994 399,556 7.2 (#4)
26 / 349
7 in opposition
1998 248,076 4.7 (#6)
17 / 349
9 in opposition
2002 710,312 13.4 (#3)
48 / 349
31 in opposition
2006 418,395 7.5 (#4)
28 / 349
20 in government
2010 420,524 7.1 (#4)
24 / 349
4 in government
2014 336,977 5.4 (#7)
19 / 349
5 in opposition
2018 355,546 5.5 (#7)
20 / 349
1 external support


Party leaders

Leader Took office Left office
Gustaf Andersson 1935 28 September 1944
Bertil Ohlin 28 September 1944 1967
Sven Wedén 1967 26 September 1969
Gunnar Helén 1969 7 November 1975
Per Ahlmark 7 November 1975 4 March 1978
Ola Ullsten 4 March 1978 1 October 1983
Bengt Westerberg 1 October 1983 4 February 1995
Maria Leissner 4 February 1995 15 March 1997
Lars Leijonborg 15 March 1997 7 September 2007
Jan Björklund 7 September 2007 28 June 2019
Nyamko Sabuni 28 June 2019 Incumbent


See also


  1. Nordsieck, Wolfram (2018). "Sweden". Parties and Elections in Europe. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. Annesley, Claire, ed. (11 January 2013). A Political and Economic Dictionary of Western Europe. Routledge. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-203-40341-9.
  3. Slomp, Hans (26 September 2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  4. Caroline Close (2019). "The liberal family ideology: Distinct, but diverse". In Emilie van Haute; Caroline Close (eds.). Liberal Parties in Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-351-24549-4.
  5. Mühlbauer, Peter (2018). "Trump mahnt Zollreziprozität an" (in German). Telepolis. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  6. Sumpf, Kathrin (2018). "Newsticker-Schweden: Perfektes Patt nach der Parlamentswahl – Ministerpräsident Löfven zum Rücktritt aufgefordert" (in German). The Epoch Times. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  7. Hecking, Claus (2018). "Diese Regierungsbildung wird kompliziert" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  8. "Liberal feminism" (in Swedish). The Liberals. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  9. "The Liberal Party - Folkpartiet". Sveriges Radio. 2014-08-27.
  10. "Crisis, conservatism, and China: the centre-right jockeys for position". The Local. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  11. Josep M. Colomer (25 July 2008). Political Institutions in Europe. Routledge. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-134-07354-2.
  12. "2018 Val till riksdagen - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  13. "Valresultat 2019" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). 2019-05-31.
  14. "2018 Val till landstingsfullmäktige - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  15. "2018 Val till kommunfullmäktige - Valda" (in Swedish). Election Authority (Sweden). Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  16. Christina Bergqvist, ed. (1 January 1999). Equal Democracies?: Gender and Politics in the Nordic Countries. Nordic Council of Ministers. p. 320. ISBN 978-82-00-12799-4.
  17. Gary Marks; Carole Wilson (1999). "National Parties and the Contestation of Europe". In T. Banchoff; Mitchell P. Smith (eds.). Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  18. "Folkpartiet – historia och ideologi" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. 2011-04-18.
  19. "Alliansens ståndaktige soldat" (in Swedish). Svenska Dagbladet. 2014-07-23.
  20. "Nyamko Sabuni ny partiledare för Liberalerna" (in Swedish). The Liberals. 2019-06-28.
  21. Johnson, Simon. "Swedish Liberal leader to step down, casts shadow over govt's stability". Reuters. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  22. Liberal admits Social Democrat computer hack, The Local, September 4, 2006 Archived September 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  23. Press officer behind Liberals' computer scandal, The Local, September 4, 2006 Archived September 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  24. Police to question more Liberal activists, The Local, September 5, 2006 Archived September 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  25. Liberal party secretary resigns, The Local, September 5, 2006 Archived September 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  26. Three convicted for people's party's computer infringement, Sveriges Radio, April 27, 2007 Archived May 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  27. Ett liv för Baltikum : journalistiska memoarer. - Stockholm : Timbro, 2002. - 351 s. : ill. - ISBN 91-7566-530-1
  28. "Partisympatier maj 2019" (in Swedish). Statistics Sweden. 2019-06-11.
  29. "Liberala ungdomsförbundet" (in Swedish). LUF. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  30. "Joar Forssell" (in Swedish). LUF. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  31. "Liberala Kvinnor" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  32. "Cecilia Elving ny ordförande i Liberala Kvinnor" (in Swedish). Liberala Kvinnor. 2019-03-04.
  33. "Våra vänner" (in Swedish). The Liberals. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  34. Statistiska Centralbyrån Archived 2012-07-17 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 8 July 2012
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