Sweden’s tradition of giving gifts to send off departing party leaders

A spa day for two, a science experiment kit, a promise of home-made pizza, a book on nationalism, and another on Stockholm walks. Sweden's party leaders on Wednesday engaged in the age-old tradition of seeing off departing colleagues with gifts.

Sweden's tradition of giving gifts to send off departing party leaders
Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson says farewell to Centre Party leader Annie Lööf by gifting her a child's experiment kit. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

After 11 years in the job, Centre Party leader Annie Lööf was given a moving farewell at her last party leader debate in the Riksdag, with kind words coming from colleagues you might have assumed were personal as well as political adversaries.

“Person in power to person in power, elected leader to elected leader, woman to woman, but perhaps most of all mother to mother, I hope from the very centre of my heart that when all the dust has settled that it was worth it, that we together made the road a little wider for our daughters,” Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch said, close to tears. 

Her party gave Lööf a donation to the charity Min Stora Dag, while she, herself, promised a dinner together where the two could “eat well and drink well”. 

Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Lööf’s response was surprisingly warm, a reminder perhaps of the two years when the two were on the same side of bloc politics, thanking Busch for her friendship. 

“I am extremely thankful for the friendship, Ebba, for the fact that we were both able to talk together about the demands of politics, about sleepless nights, about periods of vabbing as the parents of small children,” she said.  

Busch, she said, was someone who always came up with “that little bit extra”, a new mobile phone case, sticky buns for fika, adding that she had even arranged a baby shower for her, with a cake made of nappies. 

According to Carina Larsson, the head of press at The Riksdag Administration, the tradition of giving departing leaders presents goes back some time. 

“It has been a tradition for at least the last ten years to have a farewell ceremony when a party leader goes,” she told The Local. 

Outgoing Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, for instance, was gifted a spicy chilli sausage by Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, which came from a small town in Blekinge, Åkesson’s home county. 

The ceremony is little different to those held at any other workplace when an employee moves on, with small, witty gifts, and short, heartfelt speeches.

On one hand, it’s quite striking the extent to which politicians you are used to seeing at loggerheads either have, or at least pretend to have, friendly private relationships. 

The difference of course is that politics never stops, so the gifts chosen are all designed to make a certain point or give a certain impression. 

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar, whose party Lööf refused to negotiate with, gave her a spa day in Nacka. One the face of it, it’s a suitable present for two women, but Dadgostar’s speech had a slight sting in its tail. 

“I want to give you a spa day in Nacka, for two, and you don’t need to take me with you. I hope you manage to get a bit of a rest,” she said. 

“I think you decide that you and I should go,” Lööf smiled back. “I look forward to having a spa with you.”

The present that came from Jimmie Åkesson, Lööf’s longstanding opponent, was a book, Nationalstaten, or The Nation State, by Björn Östbring, sent a fairly clumsy message.

The Sweden Democrat gift to Annie Lööf was the book Nationalstaten by Björn Östbring. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The book argues that the culture war between liberals and nationalists can be overcome by looking back to the long-forgotten ideology of Liberal Nationalism. 

Lööf thanked Åkesson for the “conversations and laughter we have had”. 

“He can formulate a pretty punchy SMS, and I haven’t always been angry with him,” she joked.  

The point where Lööf came closest to a cutting comment, though, was when Johan Pehrson, the Liberal Party leader who agreed to the rather illiberal Tidö Agreement, offered her home-made pizza, and pointed out that while he had been party leader for eleven months, she had managed eleven years. 

“My God it’s tough, all the demands and expectations, everything you need to give up,” he said. 

“My advice,” Lööf responded, “is to be yourself”.

Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson gave Lööf a children’s experiment kit from Alga “as a symbol of faith in progress”. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Magdalena Andersson, the leader of the Social Democrats, offered her a book called Barnfamiljernas friluftsguide, a guide to outdoor life around Stockholm for families, and also promised to show her own “favourite place for a barbecue, so long as you don’t tell anyone”. 

Annie Lööf and Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

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SURVEY: Here’s how Swedes would vote if an election were held today

Support for the Social Democrats has soared according to a new survey, as support for the government and the Sweden Democrats has dwindled. The Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Greens now have 50 percent of voter support.

SURVEY: Here's how Swedes would vote if an election were held today

The Social Democrats are the clear winners in the new survey from Statistics Sweden, with an increase of 8.3 percent since the 2022 election and 4 percent since the last survey was carried out in November last year, putting them on 38.6 percent in May 2023.

Staying in the left bloc, the Left Party has also seen a minor increase in support. If an election were held today, it would receive 7.3 of the votes, an increase of 0.6 percent since the 2022 election, or a decrease of 0.3 since November last year.

Along with the Green Party, who would receive 4.1 percent of the vote (down 0.3 percent since November 2022 or 1 percent since the 2022 election in September), the Social Democrats and the Left Party would have exactly 50 percent of the vote if Sweden were to go to the polls today.

The Centre Party, the fourth party in the left bloc, has also seen a drop in support, with a decrease of 2.5 percent since the election and 1.2 percent since November 2022, putting it at 4.2 percent. Along with the Greens, the Centre Party is hovering just over the 4 percent parliamentary threshold.

If the Centre Party were to join the rest of the left bloc in forming a government, the bloc as a whole would have 54.2 percent of the vote, compared to the 48.8 percent of the vote it received in September’s election.

Respondents were asked how they would vote “if an election had been held today”. Statistically significant changes are marked with an asterisk (*). Photo: Statistics Sweden

On the other side of the political divide in the right-wing bloc, the Moderates are the only party to see an increase in support, up 0.2 percent since November 2022 which puts them at 19.1, the same figure as in the September 2022 election.

Its partners in government, the Liberals and Christian Democrats, are both under the 4 percent parliamentary threshold at 3.4 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. This represents a decrease of 1.2 percent for the Liberals since the election or a 0.7 percent decrease since November 2022, and a decrease of 1.6 percent for the Christian Democrats since the election or 1.2 percent since November.

The Sweden Democrats, who overtook the Moderates as Sweden’s second largest party after the election last year, have also seen a decrease in support of 2.5 percent since the election or 0.2 percent since November, which puts them on a total of 18 percent.

This would mean the Moderates would retake them as Sweden’s second largest party if an election were to be held today.

Sweden’s current governing bloc, the Moderates, Liberals, Christian Democrats with the support of the Sweden Democrats, returned 49.5 percent of the vote in September’s election. This new survey would put it on just 44.2 percent of the vote, meaning it would lose its majority if an election were to be held today.