Ulf Kristersson: The former opposition gymnast leader must be agile to win in Sweden
The aspiring to become the next Swedish prime minister, the conservative leader of the moderates, Ulf Kristersson, is an eternal optimist who chases voters seduced by the far right as impending immigration slows the country's famous welfare model.
With a long career spanning local and national politics, this 54-year-old former gymnast will need agile acrobatics and a balancing act to wrest power from the Social Democratic government led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and at the same time defend against the Swedish anti-immigrant Democrats (SD).
Kristersson's campaign before the 9 September elections has focused on limiting Sweden's generous benefits to encourage people, particularly immigrants, to enter the labor market.
From left to right: the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven, the moderate party Ulf Kristersson and the Democratic Party of Sweden Jimmie Aakesson
"We need to focus on jobs and integration so that we can prioritize the core of the social welfare system," including universal health care and education, Kristersson said when presenting his party's electoral platform.
He said Sweden faced "many great challenges".
"We have serious problems, like gang shootings, health care lines, schools in trouble and people living on benefits, and all of that needs to be resolved, but a government must also create hope for the future, instill faith that we can create something even better in Sweden, a society that creates even more Ikeas and Spotifys. "
Intellectual and analytical, with an economics degree in his pocket, Kristersson is seen as a talented communicator.
That ability has been proven frequently since the party changed its 180 degree immigration policy: from the speech of former moderate Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt 2014 "opens hearts" to Swedes on the eve of Europe's wave of immigration, to restrictive policies today while the party competes for the same voters as the far right.
In addition to a season in the early 2000s as communications director, Kristersson spent his entire career in moderates after founding a youth branch in his high school. He quickly became a rising star.
He was elected head of the national youth wing in 1988, leading a neoliberal faction. But in 1992, he lost a bitter battle for the leadership of Reinfeldt, also a neoliberal but more conservative, who became prime minister between 2006 and 2014.
That loss, and the breach that created the rivalry, profoundly affected Kristersson, and insisted on the importance of putting the team first, observers say.
Kristersson joined the parliament in 1991. He later served as a councilor in his hometown of Strangnas and in Stockholm, as social security minister under Reinfeldt's leadership from 2010-2014, and then as shadow finance minister.
In October 2017 he took the reins of the moderates after his predecessor Anna Kinberg Batra was overthrown by a party faction for saying she was ready to negotiate with SD on a case-by-case basis.
Kristersson has insisted that he will not negotiate with SD, which is hand in hand with the moderates in the polls behind the Social Democrats.
Moderate party leader, Ulf Kristersson, campaigning in Gothenburg, Sweden, before the Swedish general election
He has had problems in the campaign, and has not had resonance among the voters, since the polls show him losing ground.
He has promised to form a government with three other center-right parties.
But the so-called left-wing bloc of Alianza and Lofven seems ready to win around 40 percent of the vote, sparking fears of a parliamentary impasse without a block that has a majority and none of the blocs willing to accept SD support. .
Kristersson exudes vibrations of "good guy": intelligent, humble and reasonable, tolerant and open to discussion, willing to delegate, a winning smile.
These qualities will be key in the thorny negotiations that will take place if he is summoned to form a coalition government.
But critics are wondering if he has the leadership to govern at a time when Sweden is facing increasing polarization, growing nationalism, populism and information wars, a more assertive Russia and a possible economic slowdown.
His detractors call him a "politician to drink coffee": all talk, do nothing.
According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, some moderates have internally criticized their party's leadership for acting "too much like a group of right-wing experts" rather than a results-focused party.
Despite his youthful appearance and boyish glasses and his behavior to the side, Kristersson is no stranger to controversy.
In his 1994 book, "Non-Working Generation," he compared Sweden's labor market regulations, a key part of the welfare model, with South Africa's apartheid system: an oppressive and encouraging passivity.
A runner and hunter, Kristersson is married and is the father of three adopted daughters from China.
Stefan Lofven: welder turned Swedish prime minister dealing with immigration
Stockholm, September 3, 2018 (AFP) – Sweden's Social Democratic Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was probably never so alone: besieged by the right to leave the door open to asylum seekers and attacked by the left to then close it knock.
Either way, as the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has faced some difficult decisions about immigration and has lost support in her own field since she closed the borders of Sweden at the end of 2015, after taking more than 240,000 asylum seekers since 2014 .
At the age of 61, Lofven, a former metalworker and union leader, faces the biggest challenge of his career: keeping one of the last left center governments in Europe in power.
As the son of a poor single mother who entered politics after moving up the ranks of the labor movement, she can truly claim that she understands the challenges facing ordinary voters.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven listens to President Donald Trump speak at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Born in Stockholm in 1957, poverty forced her mother to turn him in when she was 10 months old to a foster family in Solleftea, 500 kilometers north of the capital, where her father worked in a factory.
He became a welder and spent 15 years working in a defense factory, joining the union in the early 1980s and ending up as head of the metallurgical workers union Metall from 2006 to 2012.
"Sometimes they describe me as a right-wing socialist because I think the industry is important, I find that very strange," retorts the square-faced politician and boxer's nose to those who accuse him of turning his back on the party's base.
Before the September 9 legislative elections in Sweden, he has tried to woo everyone from the left to the center, with an eye on the thorny negotiations that are likely to come together to form a government.
His Social Democrats, who have dominated Swedish politics since the 1930s, lead the polls, but seem ready to post a record low score, just ahead of the extreme right-wing Swedish Democrats and conservative moderates, who are fighting for second place.
Despite some internal dissensions, "Stefan Lofven has managed to keep the party together, his leadership is not questioned," Ulf Bjereld, political science professor at the University of Gothenburg and member of the executive committee of the Social Democrats, told AFP.
After allowing a large number of asylum seekers to enter the country after 20014, Lofven announced on November 24, 2015 that Sweden was aligning its asylum policy with the minimum levels of the European Union, cracking down on the reunifications family, among other things.
Stefan Lofven arrives at an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels earlier this year
"It hurts me to say that Sweden can no longer accommodate asylum-seekers at the same level … Sweden needs a little space to breathe," Lofven said at a press conference, with his deputy prime minister Asa Romson at his side, tears running down her cheeks.
Just two months before he had said: "My Europe does not build walls, my Europe welcomes refugees".
"Even Angela Merkel in Germany had to take a turn in immigration, but no leader in Europe made a radical change like Stefan Lofven," the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter wrote in May.
Lofven's detractors say that his position on immigration and integration is "naive". & # 39; irresponsible & # 39;
To counter that, he has taken a hard line, repeatedly emphasizing that newcomers to Sweden have both "rights and responsibilities".
And with the cars being set on fire and the gangs establishing scores in Sweden's underprivileged suburbs, he regularly asks for "law and order". – a phrase most commonly used by the right.
Seen by some as a poor speaker who lacks charisma, it is nonetheless popular among many Swedes who see it as "genuine". A recent Skop poll showed that most Swedes would prefer to break bread with him than with his Swedish moderate party challenger, Ulf Kristersson.
He and his wife Ulla, who wear the kind of simple and modest lifestyle seen as a virtue in Sweden, were recently featured on the pages of a celebrity magazine and on television, an unusual move for social democratic politicians.
If elected for a second term, it is likely that Lofven will have to deal with a slowdown in the national and international economy, as predicted by experts after Sweden's long period of growth.
Jimmie Akesson: the architect of the distant uprising of Swedenght
Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the extreme right, the democrats of Sweden, is a charismatic speaker who has managed to attract mainstream voters with his efforts to cleanse the party of its neo-Nazi roots.
With his Sweden Democrats estimated to get around 20 percent of the vote in the September 9 elections, a record for the party, Akesson has become a key adversary of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
The anti-immigration populist has seen its political star grow after the arrival of more than 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015.
Despite his relative youth, the 39-year-old man will be presented in his fourth legislative elections in 12 years at the helm of SD, which has been growing in popularity to become one of the biggest parties in Sweden.
Jimmie Akesson campaigns in Sundsvall, Sweden, before the next Swedish general election
When Akesson was elected leader of the party in 2005, few observers anticipated that he would be able to transform the fortunes of the small party, sweeping the traces of the origins of SD in the fascist movement "Bevara Sverige Svenskt & # 39; (& # 39; Keep Sweden Swedish & # 39;) and away from violent racist groups active in the 1990s.
Formed in 1988, SD entered parliament for the first time in 2010, obtaining 5.7 percent of the vote.
"It started with very little … people did not know what they were (Sweden's Democrats)," said party supporter Christer Bostrom, who used to vote for the left wing, to AFP at one of Akesson's election rallies at the central city of Orebro.
By the time of the September 2014 elections, Sweden's Democrats had shot up to become the third largest party, gaining 13 percent of the vote.
But the endless campaign days had taken their toll on Akesson. He suffered exhaustion and left sick for six months.
Born in 1979 in the southern city of Solvesborg, Akesson's mother was a caregiver and his father a businessman.
He studied political science, law and philosophy at the University of Lund, leaving before obtaining a degree.
His political activism began in his adolescence when he joined the youth wing of conservative Moderates. But he quickly became disillusioned with his economic liberalism and his support of the Swedish membership in the EU in 1995.
Akesson celebrates at the Stockholm night party after the last elections in Sweden
It is unclear if he joined SD in 1994 or 1995.
Akesson says he joined after March 1995, when then party leader Anders Klarstrom, a former member of the neo-Nazi group Nordiska Rikspartiet, was expelled along with other officials with the neo-Nazi past.
But the old documents written by Akesson and discovered by the media suggest that he joined before that.
"I've always been a nationalist … When I was little, I refused to play table hockey if I could not have blue and yellow players," Akesson wrote in a 1999 publication of the Swedish Democrats youth wing.
A former web designer, Akesson has worked hard to change the Swedish perception of the far right.
"At first, it was a racist party, but (Akesson) managed to change that," said Bostrom, 50, wearing a T-shirt with the symbol of a blue and yellow party flower, the national colors of Sweden.
In October 2012, Akesson introduced "zero tolerance" and promised to purge the party of racism and extremism.
Others, however, argue that Akesson has simply changed the party's official rhetoric.
Several SD officials have appeared in recent years in the headlines of racist comments and hate speech.
And in the last week of the campaign, more than a dozen SD candidates were expelled from the party after the media revealed their background in the neo-Nazi movements, although they said they had informed the party of their past.
Akesson insists that "those who are not democrats can not be democrats from Sweden."
Nazism is "an anti-democratic, socialist, racist, imperialist, internationalist and violent ideology".
The politician has focused his campaign on the central issues of the party, namely its strong stance against immigration, the violence of gangs in the disadvantaged suburbs and the link between the two, which has worsened since the wave of asylum seekers in 2015.
Akesson has also been particularly outspoken against Islam and wrote in a 2009 editorial for the Aftonbladet newspaper that Muslims are "our biggest foreign threat since the Second World War."