Opposition Leader Resigns in Sweden One Year Ahead of Election

(Bloomberg) -- Anna Kinberg Batra stepped down as leader of Sweden’s biggest opposition party as the center-right bloc finds itself in disarray one year ahead of elections in the largest Nordic economy.

Kinberg Batra resigned amid growing internal discontent over her stewardship and falling support in public opinion polls. Only 6 percent of all voters and a third of her party’s voters said they preferred the 47-year-old as the country’s next prime minister, according to a DN/Ipsos poll released this week.

Opposition Leader Resigns in Sweden One Year Ahead of Election

“This doesn’t mean the party’s problems are solved,” she said at a press conference in Stockholm. “They are not about a single person.”

The resignation comes amid a turbulent time for Swedish politics, with the opposition threatening no confidence motions against ministers over proposed tax increases. It also follows the ouster of cabinet ministers over a classified information breach.

Kinberg Batra took over as leader from former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt after the party and its allies lost power in 2014 and has overseen a loss in influence for what has traditionally been Sweden’s biggest opposition party on the right side of the political spectrum. 

Opposition Leader Resigns in Sweden One Year Ahead of Election

Her most consequential decision was to earlier this year open up the party to cooperation with the Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi roots. Support for the Moderates slid to the lowest level in about 15 years following the move as voters largely fled to other center-right parties and the Sweden Democrats.

The next leader, who will be be picked at a special party meeting, will need to resurrect the party’s reputation among voters as elections loom. The minority Social Democrat-led coalition is facing its own problems with the collapse in support for its partner, the Greens, even as they hope to capitalize on a booming economy to secure another four-year term.

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Kinberg Batra said she decided to resign last night amid a growing dissatisfaction in the party to allow it to focus on its policies.

“When the criticism is so widespread, the conditions for doing a good job isn’t there,” she said. “The ultimate responsibility is mine.”

Two of the main candidates to take over the leadership are Ulf Kristersson, the party’s economic-policy spokesman, and Elisabeth Svantesson, a former employment minister in Reinfeldt’s government.