Liberals (Sweden)

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Abbreviation L
Leader Jan Björklund
Founded 5 August 1934
Headquarters Stora Nygatan 2A, Stockholm
Youth wing Liberal Youth of Sweden
Ideology Liberalism[1]
Social liberalism
Conservative liberalism[2]
Liberal feminism[3]
Political position Centre-right[4][5][6]
National affiliation Alliance
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliation Liberal International
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Blue, orange
19 / 349
European Parliament
2 / 20
County councils[7]
96 / 1,597
Municipal councils[8]
710 / 12,780
Politics of Sweden
Political parties

The Liberals (Swedish: Liberalerna, L) are a liberal,[9][10] social-liberal[11] and conservative-liberal[2] political party in Sweden. The party 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 the party 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.

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, the party has since the leaderships of Lars Leijonborg and Jan Björklund in the 2000s become more conservative and positioned itself clearly on the right.[4][12][13] The party's issues includes free market economy, pushing for Sweden to join NATO and the Eurozone, as well as investing in nuclear power; lately it has focused more on gender equality and the school system.[4][12]


  • 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 is possibly the first party in the world to use the word "liberal" in its name.
  • 1902: Free-minded National Association 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 became eligible to municipal councils in Sweden, suffragette Valborg Olander elected to the Falun city council for the Liberal Party.
  • 1923: "Frisinnade Landsföreningen" splits over alcohol prohibition; the anti-ban minority forms Liberal Party of Sweden. "Frisinnade Landsföreningen" heads several governments during the following years.
  • 1934: The parties reconcile and form the People's Party (Folkpartiet), i.e. the party in its present form.
  • 1939–45: Partakes in a wartime coalition government comprising all parties except the communists. Sweden sticks to neutrality during the second world war.
  • 1976: Enters a three-party government ending 44 years of Social Democratic Party rule (excepting the wartime emergency grand coalition).
  • 1978: The Liberal Party forms a short-lived minority government by itself, with chairperson Ola Ullsten as prime minister. Hans Blix, of later Iraq-war fame, is foreign minister.
  • 1979: A new attempt at a three-party coalition is made.
  • 1980–82: Forms a two-party coalition government with the Centre party.
  • 1990: Adds Liberals ("Liberalerna") to its name to become the Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet liberalerna).
  • 1991–94: Part of four-party coalition government under Moderate Party leader Carl Bildt.
  • 2002: More than doubles vote share and comes close to a second place in elections; party leader Lars Leijonborg fails to unite a green-liberal four-party coalition government with passive Moderate support.
  • 2006–14: Part of the Alliance four-party coalition government under Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt.
  • 2015: Change name from the Liberal People's Party to the Liberals (Liberalerna).


People's Party election workers, 1940 election

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 Baltic peoples against the Soviet regime, whereas Social Democrats were wary of irritating the Soviets.[14] As a consequence, it suffered several sharply worded rebukes from the often-ruling Social Democrats for endangering Swedish relations to 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.

In the world issues, 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

The party's voter base is greater among people above the age of 65, as well as increasing as the education goes up. The support is lowest among people with a pre-gymnasial education.[15]

Historically the party had a strong base in the 'free churches' (Protestant congregations not part of the state church that turned into powerful grass-roots 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 up until the seventies. It provoked a party split in the twenties, centered 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 2002, the party has been accused[by whom?] of trying to attract new voters by adopting populist right-wing rhetoric, although the party proposes to open Sweden's doors to economic migrants and to additional asylum seekers. Former party leader Lars Leijonborg proposed a language test for immigrants who apply for Swedish citizenship. Recently,[when?] Jan Björklund, at the time the party's education spokesman and first deputy chairman, has 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. It has campaigns strongly against terrorism and criminality. While these tactics may have helped to more than double party support in the 2002 elections (to 13.3%),[citation needed] they have also provoked accusations of betraying 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 support more open immigration combined with measures to help new arrivals to integrate into Swedish society.

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.[16][17][18][19][20]

Affiliated organisations and international memberships

The Liberal People's 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. Its chairperson is Linda Nordlund.

There is also a women's organization called Liberal Women (Liberala Kvinnor, LK, chairperson Birgitta Ohlsson) 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.

The Liberal People's Party 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 the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) parliamentary group.

General election results

Election results

Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Government
1936 376,161 12.9 (#4)
27 / 230
Increase 3 in opposition
1940 344,113 12.0 (#3)
23 / 230
Decrease 4 in government
1944 398,293 12.9 (#4)
26 / 230
Increase 3 in government
1948 882,437 22.7 (#2)
57 / 230
Increase 31 in opposition
1952 924,819 24.4 (#2)
58 / 230
Increase 1 in opposition
1956 923,564 23.8 (#2)
58 / 231
Steady 0 in opposition
1958 700,019 18.2 (#3)
38 / 231
Decrease 20 in opposition
1960 744,142 17.5 (#2)
40 / 232
Increase 2 in opposition
1964 720,733 17.0 (#3)
43 / 233
Increase 3 in opposition
1968 688,456 14.3 (#3)
34 / 233
Decrease 9 in opposition
1970 806,667 16.2 (#3)
58 / 350
Increase 24 in opposition
1973 486,028 9.4 (#4)
34 / 350
Decrease 24 in opposition
1976 601,556 11.1 (#4)
39 / 349
Increase 5 in government
1979 577,063 10.6 (#4)
38 / 349
Decrease 1 in government
1982 327,770 5.9 (#4)
21 / 349
Decrease 17 in opposition
1985 792,268 14.2 (#3)
51 / 349
Increase 30 in opposition
1988 655,720 12.2 (#3)
44 / 349
Decrease 7 in opposition
1991 499,356 9.1 (#3)
33 / 349
Decrease 11 in government
1994 399,556 7.2 (#4)
26 / 349
Decrease 7 in opposition
1998 248,076 4.7 (#6)
17 / 349
Decrease 9 in opposition
2002 710,312 13.39 (#3)
48 / 349
Increase 31 in opposition
2006 418,395 7.54 (#4)
28 / 349
Decrease 20 in government
2010 420,524 7.06 (#4)
24 / 349
Decrease 4 in government
2014 336,977 5.40 (#7)
19 / 349
Decrease 5 in opposition


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 Incumbent


See also


  1. Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hans Slomp (2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics [2 volumes]: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "FP utmanar vänstern med liberal feminism". Dagens Nyheter. 2014-07-06.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "The Liberal Party - Folkpartiet", Sveriges Radio/Radio Sweden
  6. Josep M. Colomer (25 July 2008). Political Institutions in Europe. Routledge. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-134-07354-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "2014: Val till landstingsfullmäktige - Valda", Valmyndigheten, 2014-09-28
  8. "2014: Val till kommunfullmäktige - Valda", Valmyndigheten, 2014-09-26
  9. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Gary Marks; Carole Wilson (1999). "National Parties and the Contestation of Europe". In T. Banchoff; Mitchell P. Smith. Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Political and Economic Dictionary of Western Europe
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Folkpartiet – historia och ideologi", DN, 2011-04-18
  13. "Alliansens ståndaktige soldat", SVD, 23-07-2014
  14. Ett liv för Baltikum : journalistiska memoarer. - Stockholm : Timbro, 2002. - 351 s. : ill. - ISBN 91-7566-530-1
  15. "Partisympatiundersökningen (PSU) i maj 2014 – Partisympatier" (in svenska). Statistiska centralbyrån. 2014-06-03. Retrieved 2015-07-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Liberal admits Social Democrat computer hack, The Local, September 4, 2006 (English)
  17. Press officer behind Liberals' computer scandal, The Local, September 4, 2006 (English)
  18. Police to question more Liberal activists, The Local, September 5, 2006 (English)
  19. Liberal party secretary resigns, The Local, September 5, 2006 (English)
  20. Three convicted for people's party's computer infringement, Sveriges Radio, April 27, 2007
  21. Statistiska Centralbyrån, retrieved 8 July 2012

External links