|Short facts about every Prime Minister in Sweden since 1858|
Swedish Prime Ministers in history|
In Sweden there have been 33 Prime Ministers since Louis De Geer first held the office. Here you will find some short facts about each Prime Minister during the last 150 years.
Until 1974 the constitution stated that “The King alone rules the Nation”. But from the middle of the 19th century the country has, in practice and step-by-step, developed into a parliamentary democracy. One important step was taken in 1865 when the four estates of the realm was reformed into a two chamber Parliament. One other important chance was when the office of Prime Minister was formally created 1876. A third and final step from an autocratic monarchy to a parliamentarian democracy, was taken in 1920 when universal suffrage for both men and women was laid down by law. In 1974 the constitution was rewritten into a constitutional monarchy. But it was mostly a formality which adjusted practice to law, except on one point - the two chambers of Parliament become one.
The Monarch has no political power in Sweden today. The King formally opens Parliament sessions once a year. The speaker of the Parliament presents the name of the next Prime Minister and the Parliament has to accept or reject the speaker’s proposal. When elected the Prime Minister alone appoint his cabinet.
1. Louis De Geer, 1858-70 and 1875-80
Baron, Chief Judge of Court of appeal (b. 18.7 1818; d. 24.9 1896)
He was appointed First Minister of Justice by the King just 39 years old in 1858. The office of Prime Minister, created in 1876, was tailor-made for him, who in praxis had become the head of the cabinet. All in all, he lead the cabinet in 17 years. He laid the foundations of Sweden’s exceptional development from a poor peasant society to a highly industrialized country. The economic growth during the one hundred years between 1870-1970 was the highest in the world. Except his liberal economic policy, including free trade, he achieved other important reforms. Unmarried women attained their majority. Government actively supported the creation of a national wide railroad system. He also talked the King out of his plans to declare war on Prussia in 1863. Louis De Geer is probably the greatest Prime Minister in Swedish history.
2. Axel Adlercreutz, 1870-74|
Baron, Chief Judge of Court of appeal (b. 2.3 1821; d. 20.5 1880)
When De Geer resigned for personal reasons, his Home Secretary accepted the post as First Minister of Justice. The King often interfered in the cabinet’s work and undermined its authority. Louis De Geer, as a senior Member of Parliament, helped the cabinet to settle a major conflict regarding the defence, but a minor issue brought Adlercreutz’s cabinet down the year after. Adlercreutz had no less than ten children - a record among Swedish PMs
3. Edvard Carleson, 1874-75|
Baron, Supreme Court Judge (b. 16.11 1820; d. 1.4 1884)
The King wanted Louis De Geer back as First Minister of Justice, but he refused. One of De Geer’s earlier staff members, now judge in the Supreme Court and Member of Parliament, reluctantly accepted the post in an effort to prevent the Farmer’s Party to form a government. This party dominated the Second Chamber of Parliament. When Carleson was voted down within a year, Louis De Geer accepted the leadership of the government again, this time with the new title of Prime Minister.
4. Arvid Posse, 1880-83|
Count, landowner (b. 15.2 1820; d. 24.4 1901)
The farmers had gained control over the bigger and by the people directly elected Second Chamber of Parliament. When De Geer was voted down, the King had no other option but to appoint the most prominent of their leaders. Count Posse was highly controversial and didn’t become a strong PM as he lacked support from his fellow aristocrats in the First Chamber, and the farmers in the Second were not easily managed. They wanted to cut taxes by reducing the defence supplies. When the King and the First Chamber prevented it, Posse resigned.
5. Carl Johan Thyselius, 1883-84|
Supreme Court Judge (b. 8.6 1811; d. 11.1 1891)
When Posse fell the third King for a sixth time during 27 years asked Louis De Geer to lead the cabinet. He refused, but persuaded his old colleague and Minister for Education to take the office. Thyselius was 72 years old, the oldest Swedish PM ever, and also the first non-aristocratic one. His biggest achievement was to find the next PM, his Minister of Finance, to whom he was happy to yield his office.
6. Robert Themptander, 1884-88|
Civil servant, Minister of Finance (b. 14.2 1844; d. 30.1 1897)
Only 40 years old he become the ideological heir to De Geer in the office of PM. He caused, in 1887, the first politicized General Election in Sweden when he persisted in keeping the free trade policy even though the protectionist opinion was growing stronger. He won the election, but an error of form by the liberals resulted in the disqualification of several Members of Parliament, which gave the protectionists the majority also in the Second Chamber. Themptander continued to push for his policy, but was voted down.
7. Gillis Bildt, 1888-89|
Baron, General, Diplomat, Marshal of the Realm (b. 16.10 1820; d. 22.10 1894)
In the conflict between free traders and protectionists the King first tried to engage the Archbishop as PM, and when he refused the King turned to his long time friend who had just returned to Parliament after diplomatic service in Berlin. Bildt was regarded as a moderate protectionist and he formed a cabinet of ministers from both sides. But the conflict was deeper then he expected and resigns for reasons of age. He was the great-great grandfather of Carl Bildt, PM no 32.
8. Gustaf Akerhielm af Mariannelund, 1889-91|
Baron, Diplomat, Landowner (b. 24.6 1833; d. 2.4 1900)
For a diplomat, Akerhielm was uncommonly hot tempered. He left that career to become a landowner and politician. He was Minister of Finance in Carleson’s cabinet. When Bildt resigned, the King, who trusted Akerhielm, turned to him since he wanted a lojal friend as PM. Akerhielm resiged after a scandal when, at a private dinner, he threatened to "talk Swedish with the Norwegians". He had recently proposed a new war organisation to keep Norway united to Sweden in the union of 1814.
9. Gustaf Bostrom, 1891-1900 and 1902-05|
Landowner (b. 11.2 1842; d. 21.2 1907)
New Farmer’s Party
Even though Bostrom was a prominent Member of Parliament the King hesitated to appoint him as PM because he lacked the traditional academic education and experience of civil service. But when he took up his position he was soon regarded as the most energetic and able PM since De Geer. He settled urgent issues about defence, taxation and trade that had been the cause of serious political conflicts for decades. The old King respected him so deeply that he threatened to abdicate if Bostrom resign.
10. Fredrik von Otter, 1900-02|
Baron, Admiral in the Navy (b. 11.4 1833; d. 9.3 1910)
Yet another personal friend to the King took office when Bostrom resign for private reasons. The new government was called “The Bostrom Cabinet without Bostrom”. Even if the King could appoint a PM without political experience, the appointee couldn’t achieve anything important. When Bostrom was ready to return, von Otter resign. Fredrik von Otter is the only Swedish PM who has been in active service in a war (in British naval service against China 1857-60).
11. Johan Ramstedt, 1905 (April to August)|
Supreme Court Judge (b. 7.11 1862; d. 1935)
Norway had arbitrarily decided to put an end to the Union with Sweden. In this time of constitutional crisis the King didn’t want a parliamentarian breakthrough. The PM appointed was one (of only two in history) who had never been a Member of Parliament. Ramstedt had to resign after only 108 days when he lost the Parliaments trust in vote of confidence over his (in)action against Norway.
12. Christian Lundeberg, 1905 (Aug to Nov)|
CEO Mining Company (b. 14.7 1842; d. 10.11 1911)
The first PM with background in industrial management peacefully solved the union crisis with Norway in merely 95 days. He required guarantees that the King wouldn’t interfere in his work. When he gets that, he created a National Coalition Cabinet, which reflected the political powers in the Parliament, where he was highly respected. The tradition of ministers from the bureaucracy was broken. A significant step towards parliamentary democracy had been taken. When the union crisis had been solved, he left the office, though the King wonted him to stay.
13. Karl Staaff, 1905-06 and 1911-14|
Solicitor (b. 21.1 1860; d. 4.10 1915)
Liberal Party leader
The King accepted the most powerful and radical politician of his time, Karl Staaff, as PM when he had learnt to know him as a prominent member of Lundeberg’s cabinet. Staaff wanted universal suffrage and disarmament. He pursued this goal vigorously. The relationship with the King deteriorated. During Staaff’s second term in office the King brought him down in an exceptional way: the King attacked his own cabinet in a speech outside the Palace, where tens of thousands of farmers were demonstrating thier support for the King and rearmament. The King wanted to restore the autocratic monarchy, but the First World War prevented this. The demand for national unity put an end to his policy, but also to Staaff.
14. Arvid Lindman, 1906-11 and 1928-30|
CEO Paper-mill (b. 19.9 1862; d. 9.12 1936)
Conservative Party leader
Lindman’s pragmatic personality gave him an important part as a mediator, first between the liberal democratic left and the King and his right-wing supporters. Secondly between a growing Social Democratic left and aggressive bourgeois who wanted to protect their country against revolution. The result was that, in 1909, the right to vote was granted to all men by this conservative PM. Lindman was also the first PM who launches a modern nationwide election campaign. He died in a plane crash outside London, in a time when very few dared to use this new and risky way of transportation.
15. Hjalmar Hammarskjold, 1914-17|
Professor international law, Judge in Hague (b. 4.2 1862; d. 12.10 1953)
When the King had overthrown the liberal PM Staaff, he wanted a hard-core right-wing cabinet, but was talked out of it by the former conservative PM Lindman. The choice fell on the independent conservative member of the First Chamber, Hammarskjold. He was a universally respected expert in international law. He was PM during the First World War, but resigned after a conflict with the Foreign Minister about a treaty with Great Britain, which he regarded as not neutral between the fighting powers. His son, Dag Hammarskjold, became Secretary-General of the United Nations, UN.
16. Carl Swartz, 1917 (March to Oct)|
Tobacco Manufacturer (b. 5.6 1856; d. 6.11 1926)
As a prominent Members of the First Chamber of Parliament, he reluctantly accepts the appointment when the King asked him. In the spirit of his conservative colleague Lindman, he acted as a mediator between the King’s loyal right and the parties to the left. He put a stop to a civil armed guard, which was under construction, when the Social Democrats guaranteed that the May-Day celebrations just after the Russian February Revolution, would be peaceful. Without this composed approach the violent incidents could started a civil war. Swartz is, ironically, the conservative PM who achieved the final breakthrough for parliamentary rule, in stating that the question about universal suffrage would be decided by the upcoming election.
17. Nils Edén, 1917-20|
Professor of History (b. 25.8 1871; d. 16.6 1945)
Liberal Party leader
The left, Liberals and Social Democrats, won the election and got the Kings assignment to form a government. Even if the Social Democrats was the bigger party, the Liberal leader took the PM’s office. This was the first time ever that a Social Democratic Party entered a government by general election. It was a controversial decision. Some members regarded it as a surrender to a bourgeois democracy instead of Marx’s proletarian dictatorship. When the universal suffrage became law the coalition government broke down.
18. Hjalmar Branting, 1920, 1921-23 and 1924-25|
Editor in Chief (b. 23.11 1860; d. 24.2 1925)
Social Democratic leader
Branting was the first Social Democrat ever who reached the office of Prime Minister. Conflicts in Parliament about labour legislation, in which his party was in minority, created several cabinet crises during this decade. When the Social Democrats had won the long fight for universal suffrage they thought that they would soon have a comfortable majority in Parliament. Instead they lost momentum and didn’t gain more then a few seats in following elections. Branting, as both PM and Foreign Minister, was often abroad. He was one of the architects behind the League of Nations, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921.
19. Louis De Geer Jr, 1920-21|
Baron, County Governor (b. 27.11 1854; d. 25.2 1935)
When Branting resigned nobody wanted to take office so close to the general election in the autumn. The King picked a former Member of Parliament and the son of the great PM with the same name. But De Geer Jr was not suitable for the job, and the other cabinet members told the King that either the PM had to resign or they would all do so. De Geer Jr was fired.
20. Oscar von Sydow, 1921 (Feb to Oct)|
County Governor (b. 1873; d. 1936)
Together with Ramstedt (No 11) von Sydow is the only PM who never was Member of Parliament, though he had bin cabinet member during Hammarskjold and Swartz. He presented the bill that abolished the death-penalty in Sweden. After the general election he resign according to plan.
21. Ernst Trygger, 1923-24|
Professor of Justice (b. 27.10 1857; d. 23.9 1943)
National Party leader
The Social Democrat gained new seates in the 1921 election, but fell once more on labour legislation in 1923. In the confused situation the King wanted to appoint the leading right-wing Member of the First Chamber of Parliament, Ernst Trygger. In this role he had energetically apposed universal suffrage and parliamentary democracy, but when this chance came he accepted the new situation. Therefore the conservative leader in the Second Chamber, Lindman (PM no 14), didn’t object to the Kings proposal, as he had don earlier. Trygger resigned when in the election 1924 the Social Democrats won more new seats then the conservatives.
22. Rikard Sandler, 1925-26|
Teacher, Headmaster (b. 29.1 1884; d. 12.11 1964)
Soon after Branting took office for a third time, he fell ill and died. His expected successor, the legendary shoemaker and Finance Minister Fredrik Thorsson, fell seriously ill at the same time. Therefore Trade Minister Sandler was appointed PM. The decision was taken by Thorsson, who simply informed the King matter of fact. Sandler was the only Social Democrat in that office who never was leader of the party. His cabinet fell on labour legislation, like previous cabinets. Sandler was Foreign Minister during the 1930’s and resign in protest when the War Coalition Cabinet didn’t give more support when Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union in 1939.
23. Carl Ekman, 1926-28 and 1930-32|
Editor in Chief (b. 6.10 1872; d. 15.6 1945)
Nonconformist Liberal Party leader
As the first PM from a working class home he competed with the Social Democrats about the working class votes. He recommended a Liberal-Christian policy rather then Socialism. He tried to draft a policy above class struggle. His party, which was his own creation, was a fraction that breaked out of the Liberal Party. It held the balance of power between left and right in Parliament during the 1920’s. He held in the axe when three leftist cabinets fell. His many enemies got their revenge: he was forced to resign under humiliating conditions when it was discovered that his party had received money from the Kreuger group. Much later it was known that other parties also had received contributions from Kreuger.
24. Felix Hamrin, 1932 (Aug to Sept)|
Manufacturer (b. 14.1 1875; d. 27.11 1937)
Nonconformist Liberal Party
The general election was only one month off when Ekman was forced to resign as PM. The Finance Minister Felix Hamrin stepped in as PM and held the office for only 52 days - the shortest time ever. Hamrin’s most important task as Finance Minister was to save the economy after the Kreuger crash in the aftermath of the 1929 economic disaster in the United States.
25. Per Albin Hansson, 1932-36 and 1936-46|
Politician (b. 28.10 1885; d. 6.10 1946)
Social Democratic leader
Even though he was a politician all his life, from his early youth till he died as PM, he is often regarded as the greatest Prime Minster of the 20th century. He became a father figure to the entire nation during World War II. He kept Sweden out of the fighting and created an image about the welfare state that dominated Swedish policy for the rest of the century. When he died in a heart attack on his way home by tram, his party maintained control over the government for 30 years in succession. It makes the Swedish Social Democratic Party unique in Europe. The party keeping a steady support of about 40 per cent of the electorate within a multi-party Parliament. Hansson laid the foundation for that support.
26. Axel Pehrsson in Bramstorp, 1936 (June to Sept)|
Farmer (b. 19.8 1883; d. 19.2 1954)
Farmer’s Party leader
The farmers and the Social Democrats co-operated after an agreement in 1933 about labour legislation and subsidies to the agriculture. The co-operation was broken before the general election and Pehrsson was appointed PM for the duration of the election campaign - three summer months. Therefore it was called the “holiday-cabinet”. After the election a coalition cabinet was formed between Social Democrats and The Farmer’s Party, with Hansson as PM and Pehrsson as Minister of Agriculture.
27. Tage Erlander, 1946-69|
Politician (b. 13.6 1901; d. 21.6 1985)
Social Democratic leader
Erlander was Prime Minister longer than anybody else in the Western World, 23 years uninterruptedly. He administered the legacy of Per Albin Hansson. The Swedish welfare state had no serious opponents in the Parliament. The taxes weren’t raised above the OECD average and the workers and the capitalists co-operated smoothly ("The Swedish Model"). Sweden competed well on the world markets, since the country’s industry hadn’t been destroyed during the World War II.
28. Olof Palme, 1969-76 and 1982-86|
Politician (b. 30.1 1927; d. 28.2 1986)
Social Democratic leader
Olof Palme was a highly controversial politician in Sweden. As Minister of Education in 1968 he demonstrated against the United States with the North Vietnam ambassador to the Soviet Union. He radicalised the Social Democratic agenda, retreating from the co-operation legacy of Per Albin Hansson. The taxes were rapidly raised. They were soon the highest in the free world. In order to take over private companies the Party advocated wage-earners’ investment funds, financed by new company taxes. During his time in opposition Palme took an active part in international politics on behalf of the Third world. He return to office, but a still unknown killer assassinated him on a street in Stockholm.
29. Thorbjorn Falldin, 1976-78 and 1979-82|
Farmer (b. 24.4 1926)
Centre Party leader
Unlike Olof Palme, who was born an aristocrat, the Conservative opposition leader was a farmer with a modest, if not poor, upbringing. He was a good old and honourable politician who travelled to the capital from the fields and deep forests in the North of Sweden, ”with dirt under his nails”. He strongly apposed the socialism of Palme and won the historical election of 1976 when the Social Democrats lost the PM office for the first time in more then 40 years. Falldin’s Centre Party had been transformed from a farmer’s party into a ”green” party which opposed the use of nuclear power. This created conflicts with the Conservative and Liberal Parties in Falldin’s Coalition Government, which resigned, but came again after the next election. Palme eventually took the office back after the 1982 election.
30. Ola Ullsten, 1978-79|
Politician (b. 23.6 1931)
Liberal Party leader
When the Falldin majority government resign, the small Liberal Party got the chance to establish a cabinet until the next general election. In the opinion polls the unexpected PM Ullsten, who had been deputy Foreign Minister, first got high support, but on the election day his party lost almost half of its seates in Parliament. He was Foreign Minister in Falldin’s second cabinet. After that he was appointed ambassador in Ottawa and then in Rome.
31. Ingvar Carlsson, 1986-91 and 1994-96|
Politician (b. 9.11 1934)
Social Democratic leader
After the tragic assassination of Olof Palme the party and the Parliament appointed his deputy to become PM. He was more of a coalition builder and problem solver then a high profiled politician. He won the first general election as a mark of sympathy for the loss of Palme, but lost the next. Carlsson returned to the office again after three years in opposition. When he tried to introduce his young female Minister of Labour as his successor, she had to resign from the cabinet when it became known that she had used the government credit cards for private use (some candy), and lied about it. Carlsson’s biggest achievement was to persuade the Swedish people to vote for membership of the European Union in 1994.
32. Carl Bildt, 1991-94|
Politician (b. 15.7 1949)
Conservative Party leader
During his period in office most of the time was consumed by the negotiation on the Swedish membership of the European Union, and soon by a deep economic crisis. The government had to save several big banks from bankruptcy. The unemployment numbers rocketed and the deficit got even bigger. Some reform was introduced within the welfare state, such as free school choice. Some state owned companies were sold to the citizens. Bildt left the office when he was defeated in the next general election. After that he persued an international career within the UN and as the EU’s high representative in the Balkans.
33. Goran Persson, 1996-2006|
Politician (b. 20.1 1949)
Social Democratic leader
He was an outsider when he was elected to lead the Party and become PM, even though he had been Finance Minister since 1994. He was regarded as a small town politician, slitly arrogant. But he cleaned up the economic mess in the government budget. He also proved to have rhetorical abilities and won the election in 1998. He developed a good international web of contacts, especially when he has President of the EU, which gave him more authority. In September 2002 he won a new four year term in power with a pledge to protect the country’s cradle-to-grave welfare system. But in September 2006 he lost the election when the center-right opposition presented an agenda for the future.
34. Fredrik Reinfeldt, 2006--|
Politician (b. 4.8 1963)
Conservative Party leader
He decided early on that the only way to win elections was to move his party to the centre ground. In Sweden that means not challenging the basis of the welfare state but promising to run it better. During only three years as leader he has turned his Party from one who proposed radical freedom reforms and big tax cuts, to a Party which put it's focus on joblessness in Sweden. To save the Swedish model, some reforms is necessary.
Stockholm, September 20, 2006|