Minister of Education Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) reacted at a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 27 February 2024. Henriksson revealed she will hand over the reins of the Swedish People’s Party. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER of Education Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) on Tuesday announced she will relinquish the reins of the Swedish People’s Party.

“It’s also an extremely big relief to tell you that I won’t be a leadership candidate in the party’s next party conference,” she communicated to reporters in Helsinki on Tuesday, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Henriksson, who has led the almost perennial junior coalition partner since 2016, said the past couple of years have been hard. She served as minister of justice in the government that navigated the country through the coronavirus pandemic and led her party through a summer dominated by difficult coalition formation talks with the Finns Party.

“It’s quite inhumane to face the kind of storm that I’ve faced in recent weeks. I’ve had a clear view that at some point I’ll have to tell where my own limits are,” she noted.

Her announcement shifted into high gear what had been a budding leadership contest.

Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Anders Adlercreutz (SFP) on Tuesday announced he is at the party’s disposal for the position, estimating that it would be in the party’s best interest to make the leadership change in June, according to YLE. Both Henrik Wickström, the deputy chairperson of the Swedish People’s Party, and Otto Andersson, the chairperson of the Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group, said they are “seriously considering” vying for the position.

Henriksson in January kindled an internal debate about her successor by announcing she would step down if she managed to win a seat in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. On Tuesday, she attributed the subsequent unrest to a misunderstanding, clarifying that she did not say she would continue as chairperson if she was not elected to the European Parliament.

“Unfortunately my message was misinterpreted,” she said. “That wasn’t a perfect performance from a communication perspective.”

She also said she wanted to postpone the leadership contest because, in the spring, the party has to both campaign for the European elections and wrangle with its coalition partners over fiscal adjustment. It is “simply not optimal” to have the leadership race occur concurrently.

“The European elections are at risk of being overshadowed, and that isn’t a good thing. Hopefully that won’t happen,” she said.

Henriksson did not conceal her disappointment with the fact that some party members have recently opted to criticise her through media rather than directly.

“It isn’t particularly nice that you have discussions with reporters, but you don’t bring up your opinions in the party government or party council,” she lamented. “My phone works every day, 24/7.”

Recent polls have exacerbated the turmoil within the Swedish People’s Party.

Helsingin Sanomat reported last week that the party registered its lowest approval rating ever, 3.6 per cent, in February. Party secretary Frederik Guseff admitted yesterday that the poll results may have contributed to the “uncertainty and turbulence” surrounding the party.

“Helsingin Sanomat’s two latest polls have been especially bad. We have to take this serious,” he stressed to the newspaper.

Guseff also said the party will decide on when to hold its party conference in the near future.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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