The Liberal People's Party (Folkpartiet liberalerna, abbreviated fp, meaning literally People's Party the Liberals) is a political party in Sweden. The party advocates social liberalism and is part of the governing centre-right bloc Alliance for Sweden, which achieved a majority in the general election of 17 September 2006. The party is currently the fourth largest party in the Riksdag. Its youth wing is the Liberal Youth of Sweden.
In Sweden itself the party is almost universally referred to as simply the People's Party (Folkpartiet), with the word liberals (liberalerna) only being added in formal or legal contexts.
1923: "Frisinnade Landsföreningen" splits over alcohol prohibition; the anti-ban minority forms Liberal Party of Sweden. "Frisinnade Landsföreningen" heads several governments during the following years.
1934: The parties reconcile and form "Folkpartiet" (The People's Party), i.e. the party in its present form.
1939-45: Parttakes in a wartime coalition government comprising all parties except the Communists. Sweden sticks to neutrality during the second world war.
1976: Enters a three-party government ending 44 years of Social Democrat rule (excepting the wartime emergency grand coalition).
1979: A new attempt at a three-part coalition is made.
1980: Forms a two-party coalition government with the Centre party.
1990: Adds "Liberalerna" (The Liberals) to its name.
1991-94: Part of four-party coalition government under Conservative leader Carl Bildt.
While initially allied with the Social Democrats in the struggle for democracy (achieved in 1921) and social reform, the Liberal Party came to be part of the opposition from the thirties and onwards, opposing Social Democrat demands for nationalization of private businesses. It has stayed opposed to the Social Democrats ever since, often as the largest or second-largest party of the opposition block (called the non-socialists or "de borgerliga", approximately the bourgeois), but often equally critical towards parties on the right. Over time, this has shifted towards a more clear-cut rightwing role. In the mid-nineties, the party seemed to have ruled out the alternative of co-operation with the Social Democrats, focusing instead on bringing them down by strengthening the opposition.
Foreign aid and women's equality were very important issues for the party in the past, and today the party advocates liberal feminism and giving a full percent of the gross national income as foreign aid (this was achieved in 2006).
Foreign policy is another high-profile issue. Always oriented towards the United States and the UK, the party was a strong opponent of Communism and Nazism during the 20th century. While it was part of and supported the Swedish coalition government and its position of neutrality during the Second world war, the party advocated an active stance against the Soviet Union during the Cold war. The party (alongside Moderaterna) actively supported the struggle of Baltic peoples against the Soviet regime, whereas Social Democrats were wary of irritating the Soviets. As a consequence, it suffered several sharply worded rebukes from the often-ruling Social Democrats for endangering Swedish relations to the Soviet Union. It also criticised what it perceived as Social Democrat tolerance of left wing dictatorships in the third world, and supported the United States in the Vietnam war. After the end of the Cold war it became the first Swedish party to call for abandoning the country's traditional neutrality, in favor of joining NATO.
In third world issues, the party supported decolonization and advocated boycotting South Africa to help overthrow Apartheid rule. It also opposed third world Communist dictatorships. Nowadays, it is strongly supportive of Israel, and former Party leader Per Ahlmark has been especially vocal on the issue.
On the European level, the Liberal Party of Sweden was strongly supportive of the emergence of the European Union, and campaigned for Swedish entry into it (which happened in 1995). It also campaigned for joining the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, but this was voted down by the Swedes in a referendum in 2003. The party has aimed to come across as the most "pro-European" party, trying to break what it refers to as the country's "isolationist" mindset. It is supportive of EU enlargement, including letting Turkey join on condition of democratic reforms, and also advocates further integrative measures, with some members, including the youth organization, openly calling for a single federal European state.
Historically the party had a strong base in the 'free churches' (Protestant congregations not part of the state church that turned into powerful grass-roots movements in the late 19th century), but with the exception of certain regions, that is not a significant feature today. Tensions between factions sometimes described as "the free religionists" and "the metropolitan liberals" (occasionally in the form of an open left-right conflict, with the "free religious" members emphasizing the social aspect over liberal economics) was an important part of party life up until the seventies. It provoked a party split in the twenties, centered on the question of an alcohol ban, but differences were eventually repaired (the re-merging of the parties in 1934 is one of the party's plethora of official creation dates, some others being 1895, 1900 and 1902, providing frequent cause for anniversary celebrations).
Since 2002 the party has been accused of trying to attract new voters by adopting right-wing populist rhetoric, although the party also proposes to open Sweden's doors to economic migrants and to additional asylum seekers. Party leader Lars Leijonborg proposed a language test for immigrants who applied for Swedish citizenship. Recently, the party's education spokesman and first deputy chairman Jan Björklund has called on schoolteachers to report schoolchildren with extreme opinions to the intelligence services, something which has caused opposition from within the party, not least from the youth league. It has campaigns strongly against terrorism and criminality. While these tactics may have helped to more than double party support in the 2002 elections (to 13.3%), they have also provoked accusations of betraying liberal ideology from within leftist factions of the party, and led to criticism from the strong liberal press in Sweden. However, the party, which has historically been the most pro-immigration Swedish party, has also proposed measures intended to make it easier for foreigners to visit relatives living in Sweden, and to ease restrictions on economic migrants, for which it has been opposed by the governing Social Democrats. In its policy on integration, the party claims to support more open immigration combined with measures to help new arrivals to integrate into Swedish society. It also publicly distanced itself from an anti-immigration campaign by its Danish sister party Venstre, and rejected an endorsement from the far-right Swedish Democrats.
On September 4, 2006, only weeks before the 2006 general election, the Social Democratic Party reported a computer break-in into the Social Democrats' internal network to the police. It has been reported that members of the Liberal People's Party had copied secret information not yet officially released to counter-attack Social Democratic political propositions on at least two occasions. On September 5, the Party Secretary, Johan Jakobsson, voluntarily chose to resign. Leading members of the party and its youth organization were under police investigation suspected for criminal activity. All members of the party were acquitted by the court however, while an official of the party's youth organization, as well as one from the Social Democrats and a newspaper reporter, were found guilty.
There is also a Women's organization called Liberal Women (Liberala Kvinnor, LK, chairperson Helena Bargholtz) and immigrants' organization called Liberala invandrarförbundet, LIF, (Liberal Immigrants' Association, chairperson Farrokh Farrokhi). Additionally, party members maintain a number of small ad hoc "networks" addressing specific issues.
In the European Parliament, Folkpartiet is a member of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party group, and internationally it is member of the Liberal International. It is also part of Liberal organizations on the Nordic and Baltic levels.
Election results by year, not including pre-1934 history:
|Leader||Took office||Left office||Duration|
|Gustaf Andersson||1935||28 September 1944||ca.|
|Bertil Ohlin||28 September 1944||1967||ca.|
|Sven Wedén||1967||26 September 1969||ca.|
|Gunnar Helén||1969||7 November 1975||ca.|
|Per Ahlmark||7 November 1975||4 March 1978|
|Ola Ullsten||4 March 1978||1 October 1983|
|Bengt Westerberg||1 October 1983||4 February 1995|
|Maria Leissner||4 February 1995||15 March 1997|
|Lars Leijonborg||15 March 1997||7 September 2007|
|Jan Björklund||7 September 2007||Incumbent||(ongoing)|