Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson, who quit just hours after becoming the first woman elected Sweden’s prime minister, is a “bulldozer” who faces a tough battle fending off an unprecedented challenge by the right-wing and far-right in next year’s general election.
The 54-year-old, with straight blond hair and no-nonsense attitude, describes herself as a “nice, hard-working woman” who likes to be in charge.
In political circles, she has built a reputation for being direct and blunt, a quality that rubs some the wrong way in a country where consensus is the law of the land.
A recent TV profile of her was titled “The Bulldozer”.
“People even say they are scared of her which is kind of funny, these elite political scientists or professors of economics saying they are afraid of her,” said Anders Lindberg, political editor at daily Aftonbladet, which describes itself as independent social democratic.
Considered extremely competent during seven years as finance minister, Andersson is known for her slogan “Sweden can do better”.
She made a name for herself in Brussels for defending fiscal restraint when the Scandinavian country joined Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands as the “frugal four” who counselled a more restrained European Covid-19 recovery plan.
“She has a little bit of an Angela Merkel way of arguing. It’s not completely clear what she wants to say all the time, but (she) ends up winning the argument because no-one else can really answer because she masters all the details,” says Lindberg.
– ‘Done the groundwork’ –
Born in the university town of Uppsala, she is the only daughter of a university professor and a teacher.
She first made a name for herself in the water, twice winning gold in the Swedish national junior championships.
Alongside her studies at the Stockholm School of Economics — and a spell at Harvard — she immersed herself in the Social Democratic party, having joined its youth league aged 16.
In 1996, she became an aide to prime minister Goran Persson.
“I think she’s very keen now to present herself as being someone who has done the groundwork… But of course she is a from an academic elite,” Jonas Hinnfors, a professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg, told AFP.
While she identifies with the party’s left-wing faction, she has taken a “pragmatic” approach to its shift toward the centre in recent years, Hinnfors said.
But underneath all that pragmatism lie some surprises. The mother-of-two, married to an economics professor, is a fan of heavy metal band System of a Down.
Yet having waited for so long to have a woman prime minister, Sweden experienced its first female in the post for only hours.
Andersson quit after her budget was rejected and the Greens walked away from her coalition.
However, she has said she would like to return, so Swedes may yet get to see how a heavy metal fan nicknamed bulldozer could lead the country.