Christian Democrats (Sweden)

Christian Democrats (Sweden)
Christian Democrats
Leader Göran Hägglund
Founded 1964 (1964)
Headquarters Munkbron 1, Stockholm
Ideology Christian democracy Economic liberalism[1]
Political position Centre-right
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
European affiliation European People's Party
European Parliament Group European People's Party
Official colours Blue, white
19 / 349
European Parliament
1 / 20
82 / 1,662
591 / 12,978
4 / 290
Politics of Sweden
Political parties

The Christian Democrats (Swedish: Kristdemokraterna, abbreviated (KD)) is a political party in Sweden. The party was founded in 1964 but did not enter parliament until 1985 in an electoral cooperation with the Centre Party and on the Christian Democrats' own accord in 1991. The leader since April 3, 2004 is Göran Hägglund. He succeeded Alf Svensson, who had been the party's leader since 1973. The four most important issues for the party are:

  • Improving the care of the elderly
  • Freedom of choice for families with children in selecting their childcare
  • Decreasing regulations on companies
  • Lowering taxes to promote growth and combat unemployment

The party name was for a long time abbreviated KDS until 1996, when the new abbreviation became KD as the name changed from the Christian Democratic Unity to the Christian Democrats.



Reasons for founding the party

The party had its roots in a movement against the Swedish government's decision in 1963 to remove religious education from the elementary school syllabus. The organisation called "Christian Social Responsibility" that would later become the Christian Democratic Unity organised several marches against the decision, one of which became one of the largest in Swedish modern history. Despite the public outcry and over 2.1 million protest signatures, the decision went through. The group which had worked in the campaign felt it was a sign that Swedish politics needed a Christian Democratic Party.

It should be noted the political and social origins of the Swedish Christian Democracy clearly differ from those of the European continental Christian Democratic parties (as in Italy or Germany). In those countries, Christian Democracy represented the mainstream of the social-conservative political forces and was closely tied to majoritarian religious practice. In Sweden, however, Christian Democracy surged as minority grouping amongst the center-right forces and was tied to religious minority tendencies in society (particularly among voters associated with the Free Churches).


In the beginning of 1964 Lewi Pethrus, founder of the Swedish Pentecostal movement and chief editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagen, discussed the idea of a Swedish Christian democratic party on the editorial pages of Dagen. He stated that many people had contacted him about the idea and that the then-current Swedish political climate was dominated by atheist economic materialism.

Principal Algot Terel hosted a conference on February 7 of the same year. The topic of the conference was "Christianity and Politics", and during the conference the idea of starting a Christian Democratic Party was discussed. A committee consisting of Lewi Pethrus and 8 other Free Church leaders was formed.

A large and widespread debate followed this decision to create a commitée. Dagen published an interview with the leader of the Norwegian Christian Democratic Party Kjell Bondevik, and there were talks about creating a Christian Democratic Party in Finland as well.

On March 20, 1964 the party was founded as the Christian Democratic Unity (Kristen Demokratisk Samling). At first it was only an organisation, but at a board meeting later that year it was decided that the organisation would be revamped into a party and that it would run for the national elections in Sweden. The first roughly 100 members elected Birger Ekstedt to the post of party chair and Lewi Pethrus to the post of vice chair.

Then began the intensive work of spreading the party all over the nation and preparing the necessary infrastructure in preparation for the elections. The party grew rapidly; by the end of the year it had 14 500 members.

Early start

The party was sometimes called the "Air and Water" party at a start because of the party's strong emphasis on environmental politics. At that time the Green Party of Sweden did not exist, and thus the Christian Democratic Unity had a unique position with its environmentally friendly politics. In the Swedish national elections in 1964 the party gained 1,8%, not enough to get any seats in the riksdag, but the party already gained influence on the municipal level. In the municipal elections of 1966, the party gained 354 seats.

At this time the established major parties of Sweden began discussing new ways of prohibiting minor parties in Sweden from getting into the riksdag. In 1971 the riksdag was reformed, and with it came the D'Hondt method of voting. The threshold was set to 4%, which meant that the political breakthrough was far away for KDS.

In 1972, 51-year-old Birger Ekstedt died only a few days after having been reelected as the party chair. An emergency congress was called, and the relatively unknown chair of the youth-wing of the party was elected chair. His name was Alf Svensson, and he later became one of the most important figures in modern Swedish politics. In the national elections in 1973 the party gained the same result as the two preceding elections, 1,8%.

Before the national elections in 1976 there was a strong call for a change to a right-wing government in Sweden. The organisation "Vote right-wing" was formed to promote the change to a right-wing government. KDS, however, announced a desire not to be placed on the traditional right-wing/left-wing scale, a measurement system they felt was outdated. Therefore, the "Vote right-wing" organisation started a campaign of negative campaigning against the KDS with the slogan "Don't vote for KDS, don't throw away your vote" as the KDS party had not climbed to the 4% threshold the last elections. The effects of a large campaign on a small and relatively new party like the KDS was disastrous, and the party gained only 1.4% of the votes in the 1976 election.

In the beginning of the 1980s, the party revamped its entire political manifesto. The party abandoned its conservative stance on abortion and instead assumed a moderate pro-choice stance and adopted a plank to work to lower the total number of abortions in Sweden through encouragement of individual voluntary measures instead. In the 1980 Nuclear power referendums the party supported the "no" campaign, which meant a no to any further construction of new nuclear power-plants in Sweden and the phase-out of all nuclear power plants in Sweden within 10 years complete with increased investments in alternative energy.

In 1982 the Christian Democratic Women's league was founded, and the party gained 1.9% of the votes, for the first getting more than 100 000 votes.

Way into the riksdag

As early as 1978, the KDS discussed the idea of electoral cooperation with the Centre Party. Similar ideas were discussed before the 1982 elections but were never put into action. One of the proponents of such a collaboration was the then secretary of information Mats Odell. The party officially took a stance against a socialist government, which effectively put them together with the right-wing block.

The negotiations were bumpy, but in 1984, the Centre Party and KDS agreed to run under a joint banner in the next year's elections under the name Centern ("The Centre").

The deal, which was heavily criticised by the Swedish Social Democratic Party, meant that each party had its own voting ticket but that the Centre Party should nominate a Christian Democratic candidate on at least 5 of the regional candidacy lists. The Centre Party ticket would win over the KDS ticket almost everywhere, but this way there would be at least 5 Christian Democrats in the Riksdag. The Centre Party did not live up to the promise, however, and the Center Party put a Christian Democrat on the list only in the municipality of Kalmar. This resulted in great tensions within the Christian Democrats; one of the party icons, the environmental proponent Björn Gillberg, left the party. Alf Svensson, however, managed to get into the Riksdag through the KDS party ticket in Jönköping.

Real breakthrough

In 1987 the party manifesto was revamped once again (although not so heavily as the last time), and the party changed its name to Christian Democratic Social Party (Kristdemokratiska Samhällspartiet), while keeping the KDS abbreviation. In the 1988 national elections the party grew significantly and gained 2.8% of the votes. But the Centre Party did not want any further electoral cooperation, and Alf Svensson had to leave the riksdag. Something had happened, however. The party was now recognised as one of the major parties in Sweden, and Alf Svensson had become famous. According to many polls, he was in fact the most popular politician in the entire nation.

Several famous people joined the party, and in the right-wing breakthrough national elections of 1991 the party grew explosively yet again and gained over 7% of the votes. The right-wing bloc gained a majority, and KDS formed a government with the right-wing bloc. Several Christian Democrats got positions within the new government—Alf Svensson as the minister of foreign aid (and vice foreign minister), Inger Davidson as minister of civilian infrastructure, and Mats Odell as minister of communications.

After the right-wing bloc lost the 1994 elections, KDS managed to stay in the riksdag and had assumed a permanent position within Swedish national politics. In 1996 the party changed its name to the current form, Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna), switching the abbreviation form to KD, in a gesture perceived by elements both inside and outside the party as helping deflect the belief that it was a strictly religious party. In 1998 the party had its best elections ever, gaining over 11% of the votes; it established itself as the fourth largest party in the riksdag, becoming larger than the former electoral partner the Centre Party. In the 2002 national elections the party got fewer votes but still held on to its position as the fourth-largest party.

In 2004, the famous Alf Svensson stepped down in favor of his long designated successor Göran Hägglund.

At the end of 2005, the party had 24 202 confirmed members, making it the fourth-largest party in size as well. It's one of the few parties in Sweden not continuously losing a lot of members. The Christian Democrats are represented in almost every municipality and region in Sweden.

Alliance cabinet

As a member of the winning side in the Swedish general election, 2006, the Alliance for Sweden, the Christian Democrats got three minister posts in the Cabinet of Fredrik Reinfeldt. Unlike the Moderate Party and the Liberal People's Party, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party avoided scandals for personal conduct and accusations for espionage against the competing Swedish Social Democratic Party; so the minister posts were originally, and are still, held by the party leader Göran Hägglund, Mats Odell, and Maria Larsson.

Hägglund has, however, received criticism internally for defending the party's pro-choice stance on abortion, which some older members believe have contributed to the decline of the party in the recent years.[3] The Alliance cabinet's stance against unemployment and sick-listed benefits have been criticised by former party leader Alf Svensson, while the moderate Sven-Otto Littorin went into aggressive counterattack, but the Christian Democratic ministers were silent.[4]

Decline and internal strife

Support of the Christian democrats significantly declined in the European elections of 2009, where the former party leader Alf Svensson got the party's sole seat in the European Parliament at the expense of the party's top candidate Ella Bohlin. Though Bohlin had run her campaign with a focus on limiting alcohol and outlawing traditional Swedish snuff,[5] Hägglund stated in a speech two weeks after the elections that he wanted to "prohibit the prohibitions" and spoke about the difference between the values of the “people of reality” and the left-wing cultural elite.[6][7] Some claim that this wasn't followed up by any political suggestions in the 2010 Swedish general elections,[8] where the party declined once again. Hägglund has been criticized for not being controversial enough by MP Ebba Busch,[9] and it has been suggested that around a third of the party's representatives would like him to resign.[10]

The politics of the Young Christian Democrats have shifted strongly to the right in the past few years,[11] a change that has been attributed to the many conservative ex-moderates joining the organization.[12] Some older Christian democrats, including the party's former chief ideologue Ingvar Svensson has called this change “an attempt of occupation”.[13] Swedish political news magazine Fokus has stated that the conflict on traditional Christian moral questions (abortion, gay rights, cell-stem research) is secondary to the conflict between those who want a Christian centrist party focused on social responsibility and environmental questions, and those who want a traditional right-wing party focusing on anti-elitism and economic liberalism.[14] The later group have founded a network called the FFFF (Freedom, family, diligence and enterprize), a group that has clear influences from Thatcherism.[14] Christian democratic youth leader Aron Modig has stated that he wants the Christian Democrats to become the “Tea party” of Sweden, and oppose the government when it fails to present a truly right-wing vision of society.[15]

Voter base

Ideologically KD is a centre-right Christian Democrat party, historically having a big part of its voter base among those who belong to evangelical fellowships known in Sweden as free churches—Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, etc.—together with likeminded Lutherans (such as Göran Hägglund and Mats Odell). These churches have many followers in Småland, which is the region where the party is strongest. Important voter groups are senior citizens, families and citizens that belong to the upper-middle class. The Party's political message has been called "neo-liberalism with a human face"[16]—mirroring the fact that economic liberalism constitutes an important part of the Swedish Christian Democrats' program.[1]

The party is a member of the European People's Party (EPP).

Christian Democratic Politicians

Party chairman

1964–1972 Birger Ekstedt
1973–2004 Alf Svensson
2004- Göran Hägglund

Vice chairman

This list is not yet complete.

1964-? Lewi Pethrus
1991–2003 Inger Davidson
2003- Maria Larsson

Second vice chairman

This list is not yet complete.

1964-? Sven Enlund
1979-? Maj-Lis Palo
1993–2003 Anders Andersson
2003–2004 Göran Hägglund
2004- Mats Odell (Minister of Communications 1991-1994)

Party secretary

1964–1972 Bertil Carlsson
1972–1978 Stig Nyman
1978–1985 Per Egon Johansson
1985–1989 Dan Ericsson
1989–1991 Inger Davidson (Minister of civil infrastructure 1991-1994)
1991–1993 Lars Lindén (MP 2002-)
1994–2002 Sven Gunnar Persson (MP 2002-)
2002- Urban Svensson

Group leader in the riksdag

1991–2002 Göran Hägglund
2002–2010 Stefan Attefall
2010 Mats Odell

Other famous Christian democrats

Affiliated organisations

Election results

Year 1964 1966 1968 1970 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 1998 2002 2006 2010
National elections 1,8% * 1,5% 1,80% 1,75% 1,36% 1,39% 1,87% 2,6%** 2,94% 7,14% 4,1% 11,77% 9,15% 6,6% 5,6%
Regional Elections * 1,8% * 1,9% 2,1% 1,9% 2,0% 2,4% 2,0% 3,1% 7,0% 3,7% 10,0% 8,2% 6,6% 5,1%
Municipal Elections * * * 1,8% 2,1% 2,0% 2,1% 2,4% 2,0% 2,8% 5,8% 3,2% 8,0% 7,1% 5,8% 4,4%

* - This type of election did not occur this year because of the electoral system.

** - The Christian Democrats stood on a joint list with the Centre Party, and thus no separate election results. The number supplied is the number of tickets with Christian Democratic candidates that were voted with under the common name.


  • Niels Arbøl, Kristdemokraterna en världsrörelse (Samhällsgemenskap, 1986) ISBN 91-85036-22-6
  • Cecilia Hjort Attefall, Partiet som lyfte: 40 år med svensk kristdemokrati: 1964-2004 (Samhällsgemenskap, 2004) ISBN 91-85036-52-8
  • Birger Ekstedt, KDS - en politisk nödvändighet (Samhällsgemenskap, 1970)
  • Göran V. Johansson, Kristen Demokrati På Svenska (Liber, 1985) ISBN 91-40-05103-X
  • Erik Lindfeldt, Moralpartiet. En bok om KdS (Carlssons, 1991) ISBN 91-7798-433-1
  • Bernt Olsson, Upprinnelsen - Om Kristdemokraternas första tid i Sverige (Samhällsgemenskap, 2004) ISBN 91-85036-56-0
  • Allan Sandström, KDS - Partiet bakom fromhetsvallen (LT, 1979) ISBN 91-36-01329-3
  • Alf Svensson, I Tiden, från motvind till uppvindar (Samhällsgemenskap, 1984) ISBN 91-85036-10-2
  • Kristdemokratisk Debatt (paper published by the party between 1992–2003) ISSN 1103-1522

See also


  1. ^ a b Kristdemokraterna official site: Kapitel 1. Kristdemokratins värdegrund in Swedish
  2. ^ a b c "Allmänna val, valresultat". Statistics Sweden. 
  3. ^ SR/Swedish Radio: Kd-ledaren står fast vid kritiserat abortförslag in Swedish
  4. ^ SR/Swedish Radio: Förre kd-ledaren till attack mot arbetsmarknadspolitiken in Swedish
  5. ^ "Håll Europa fritt från snus". Ella Bohlin. 
  6. ^ "Tal i Almedalen 2009". Göran Hägglund. 
  7. ^ "Sätt stopp för kulturdekadensen". Göran Hägglund. 
  8. ^ "KD utan kompass". Expressen. 
  9. ^ "Nu behövs det kristdemokratiskt jävlar annama". Ebba Busch. 
  10. ^ "En av fyra vill att Hägglund avgår". Alliansfritt Sverige. 
  11. ^ "Högerfalangen har helt tagit makten i KDU". Daniel Sturesson, SvD. 
  12. ^ "Arton KDU:are varnar för högervridning". Tidningen kristdemokraten. 
  13. ^ "Kristdemokrati är inte värdekonservatism". Ingvar Svensson. 
  14. ^ a b "Många nyanser av kristdemokraterna". Fokus. 
  15. ^ "Aron Modig vill se Svenskt Tea Party". Världen idag. 
  16. ^ Guide To The 1998 National Election, Sweden's Political Spectrum

External links

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