Swedish Social Democratic leader Hakan Juholt resigned 10 months into the job as support tumbled after he had to repay a housing allowance and sparked internal party criticism for not raising unemployment benefits in a shadow budget.
“I have made mistakes as party chairman,” he said today at a televised press conference in his hometown of Oskarshamn. “I don’t want to stand in the way for the fresh start that the Social Democrats and Sweden need.”
Juholt faced a wave of criticism inside and outside his party after he admitted in October that he erroneously claimed a full housing allowance to keep an apartment in Stockholm in addition to his home in Oskarshamn, when he was only entitled to half because he shares the flat with his partner. Juholt agreed to repay 160,000 kronor ($23,600) to parliament.
The Social Democrats, which governed Sweden for much of the 20th Century, elected Juholt as new party leader in March, replacing Mona Sahlin whose three-party opposition coalition failed to defeat the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in 2010’s parliamentary election.
Party Secretary Carin Jaemtin said at a televised press conference in Stockholm that Social Democrat’s executive committee would start work on finding a replacement in what was an “unprecedented” situation and a “crisis” for the group.
Support for the Social Democrats, which for decades was Sweden’s biggest party, fell to 25.4 percent last month in a Sifo survey of voters, while support for the Reinfeldt-led Moderates grew to 34.4 percent.
Swedish newspapers were full with lists chronicling Juholt’s missteps, including failing to get the rest of the party on board when he released a shadow budget that didn’t include more money for unemployment programs. A “Juholtare,” or making a hasty statement that is later retracted, became a new Swedish word last year, according to an annual list by the Language Council of Sweden.
Juholt did not immediately identify his successor. Sweden holds an election in 2014.
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