Christian Democrats (Sweden)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Christian Democrats
119 / 1,696
Municipal councils[13]
676 / 12,700

The Christian Democrats (Swedish: Kristdemokraterna [ˈkrɪ̂sːtdɛmʊˌkrɑːtɛɳa] ; KD) is a Christian-democratic[14] political party in Sweden founded in March 1964. It first entered parliament in 1985, through electoral cooperation with the Centre Party; in 1991, the party won seats by itself. The party leader since 25 April 2015 has been Ebba Busch.[15]

The party name was initially abbreviated to KDS (standing for Kristen demokratisk samling pronunciation, Christian Democratic Unity), from its foundation in 1964 to 1996, when the party changed its name to the current Christian Democrats and its abbreviation to KD.

The party was a minor party in centre-right coalition governments led by Moderate Party Prime Ministers Carl Bildt from 1991 to 1994 and Fredrik Reinfeldt from 2006 to 2014, with the latter under a formalised cooperation within the Alliance for Sweden. The party has been a minor party in the coalition government led by Moderate Party Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson since 2022, this time with Moderate Party and the Liberals with support from the Sweden Democrats.


According to the party, their five most important policy issues include:[16]

  • Healthcare: reform the healthcare system and nationalise Swedish healthcare. Improve care guarantee. Reform the queue billion. Save supported living.
  • Elderly care: retirement home guarantee as well as an abolished pensions tax. The KD also supports housing supplements for the elderly.[17][18] The Christian Democrats especially emphasize the elderly's right to a dignified life and want to introduce a higher standard for nursing homes.
  • Safety: more police officers and more resources to the police. The party also supports law and order policies, such as increasing resources for the police and stricter laws against sexual crimes and honor killings.[19]
  • Family: enable more time for the children, facilitate family formation, increase families' room for maneuver, upgrade parenthood, enable different forms of childcare and strengthen the finances of families with children. The party supports freedom of choice of parents for education and increased resources for schools in vulnerable areas.[16]
  • Integration: according to the party, jobs are one of the keys to good integration and that a society is built on a common set of values, where certain values are immutable.

KD's platform and policies have been shaped by the tenets of Christian democracy, stewardship, and the shared responsibility between the church and political institutions, the responsibility of solidarity towards fellow human beings and the safeguarding of civil society, permeated with socially and culturally conservative values.[20]

The KD support reducing petrol prices and abolishing property tax.[21] The KD supports the monarchy.[22]

The Christian Democrats want a flexible immigration policy, but one that is regulated and controlled. The party names a Nordic level when it comes to immigration, meaning the amount of refugees that enter Sweden should be at the same level as in the other Nordic countries. The KD also calls for a socially just but efficient asylum policy in which resources can be allocated to those in need in tandem with faster screening and quicker deportation of those who fail or abuse the asylum claiming processes, as well as increased spending on border patrol police.[23] It also wants to introduce a special integration committee in the Riksdag and compulsory measures for refugees to learn Swedish and adopt Swedish customs and social norms.[23] Since 2018, the party has pledged a tougher line against immigration and multiculturalism, including opposing the Islamic call to prayer in public spaces.[24][25]

On foreign policy, the KD is largely supportive of Sweden's membership of the European Union. They were in favour of entering the eurozone during the 2003 Swedish euro referendum, but after the “No” side won the referendum in a landslide victory the party changed its stance and are now against joining the eurozone.[26] They are calling for "a narrower and sharper EU" and that "on a number of issues, the EU need to take a step back and give more power back to the nation states”.[27] In the European Parliament, the KD sits with the European People's Party and is a member of Centrist Democrat International internationally which contains other Christian democratic parties.


Reasons for founding the party

The party had its roots in a movement against the Swedish government's decision in 1963 to remove religious education from the elementary school syllabus. An organisation called "Christian Social Responsibility", which would later become the Christian Democratic Unity, organised several marches against the decision, one of which became one of the largest in Swedish modern history. Despite the public outcry and over 2.1 million protest signatures, the decision went through. The group that had worked in the campaign felt it was a sign that Swedish politics needed a Christian Democratic Party.

The political and social origins of the Swedish Christian Democrats clearly differ from those of the European continental Christian Democratic parties (as in Italy or Germany). In those countries, Christian Democracy represented the mainstream of the social-conservative political forces and was closely tied to majoritarian religious practice. In Sweden, however, Christian Democracy emerged as a minority grouping amongst the centre-right forces and was tied to minority-religious tendencies in society (particularly among voters associated with the free churches and likeminded Lutherans).


In the beginning of 1964, Lewi Pethrus, founder of the Swedish Pentecostal movement and chief editor of the Swedish newspaper Dagen, discussed the idea of a Swedish Christian democratic party on the editorial pages of Dagen. He stated that many people had contacted him about the idea and that the current Swedish political climate was dominated by atheist economic materialism.

Principal Algot Tergel hosted a conference on 7 February of the same year. The topic of the conference was "Christianity and Politics", and during the conference the idea of starting a Christian Democratic Party was discussed. A committee consisting of Pethrus and eight other Free Church leaders was formed.

A large and widespread debate followed the decision to create the committee. Dagen published an interview with Kjell Bondevik, the leader of the Norwegian Christian Democratic Party, and there were talks about creating a Christian Democratic Party in Finland as well.

On 20 March 1964, the party was founded as Christian Democratic Unity (Kristen demokratisk samling). At first, it was only an organisation, but at a board meeting later that year it was decided that the organisation would be revamped into a party and that it would compete in the national elections in Sweden. The first roughly 100 members elected Birger Ekstedt to the post of party chair and Lewi Pethrus to the post of vice chair.

The party grew rapidly; by the end of the year, it had 14,500 members.

Early start

During its early years, the KDS was sometimes called the "Air and Water" party because of its strong emphasis on environmental politics. At that time the Green Party of Sweden did not exist, and thus the Christian Democratic Unity had a unique appeal with its environmentally friendly policies. In the Swedish national elections of 1964 the party gained 1.8% of the vote, not enough to get any seats in the Riksdag, but the party already had influence at the municipal level. In the municipal elections of 1966 the party gained 354 seats.

At this time, the established major parties of Sweden began discussing new ways of making it more difficult for minor parties to enter the Riksdag. In 1971 the Riksdag was reformed, and with this came the D'Hondt method of allocating seats. The electoral threshold was set at 4%, which meant that the wanted political breakthrough was far away now.

Birger Ekstedt died in 1972, aged 51, only a few days after having been reelected as the party chair. An emergency congress was called; there Alf Svensson, the relatively unknown chair of the youth wing of the party, was elected chair. Svensson was to become one of the most important figures in modern Swedish politics. In the national elections of 1973 the party gained 1.8% of the vote, the same result as in the two preceding elections.

Before the national elections of 1976, there was a strong call for a change to a right-wing government in Sweden. The organisation "Vote right-wing" was formed to promote the change to a right-wing government. The KDS, however, announced a desire not to be placed on the traditional right-wing/left-wing scale, a measurement system it felt was outdated. Therefore, the "Vote right-wing" organisation started a campaign of negative campaigning against the KDS with the slogan "Don't vote for KDS, don't throw away your vote" as the KDS had not reached the 4% threshold at the last elections. The effect of this large campaign on a small and relatively new party like the KDS was disastrous, and it gained only 1.4% of the vote in the 1976 election.

At the start of the 1980s, the party revamped its entire political manifesto. The party abandoned its conservative stance on abortion and instead assumed a moderate pro-choice stance and adopted a plank to work to lower the total number of abortions in Sweden through encouragement of individual voluntary measures instead. In the 1980 nuclear power referendums the party supported the "no" campaign, which meant opposing any further construction of new nuclear power-plants in Sweden and advocating the phasing-out of all nuclear power plants in Sweden within 10 years, together with increased investments in renewable energy.

In 1982, the Christian Democratic Women's League was founded, and the party gained 1.9% of the votes, for the first time getting more than 100,000 votes.

Way into the Riksdag

As early as 1978, the KDS discussed the idea of electoral cooperation with the Centre Party. Similar ideas were discussed before the 1982 elections but were never put into action. One of the proponents of such a collaboration was the then secretary of information Mats Odell. The party officially took a stance against a socialist government, which effectively put them together with the right-wing block.

The negotiations were difficult, but in 1984 the Centre Party and KDS agreed to run under a joint banner in the next year's elections under the name Swedish: Centern pronunciation ("The Centre").

The deal, which was heavily criticised by the Swedish Social Democratic Party, meant that each party had its own voting ticket but that the Centre Party should nominate a Christian Democratic candidate on at least five of the regional candidacy lists. The Centre Party ticket would win over the KDS ticket almost everywhere, but this way there would be at least five Christian Democrats in the Riksdag. The Centre Party did not fulfil its promise, however, and put a Christian Democrat on the list only in the municipality of Kalmar. This resulted in great tensions within the Christian Democrats; one of the party icons, the environmental activist Björn Gillberg, left the party. However, Alf Svensson managed to get into the Riksdag through the KDS party ticket in Jönköping.

Real breakthrough

In 1987, the party manifesto was revamped once again (although not so heavily as the last time), and the party changed its name to Christian Democratic Social Party (Swedish: Kristdemokratiska Samhällspartiet pronunciation), while keeping the KDS abbreviation. In the 1988 national elections the party grew significantly and gained 2.8% of the votes. But the Centre Party did not wish any further electoral cooperation, and Alf Svensson had to leave the Riksdag. Something had happened, however. The party was now recognised as one of the major parties in Sweden, and Svensson had become famous. According to many opinion polls, he was the most popular politician in the entire nation.

Several famous people joined the party, and in the right-wing breakthrough national elections of 1991 the party grew explosively yet again and gained over 7% of the votes. The right-wing bloc gained a majority, and KDS formed a government with the right-wing bloc. Several Christian Democrats got positions within the new government: Alf Svensson as the minister of foreign aid (and vice foreign minister), Inger Davidson as minister of civilian infrastructure, and Mats Odell as minister of communications.

After the right-wing bloc lost the 1994 general election, the KDS managed to stay in the Riksdag and had assumed a steady position within Swedish national politics. In 1996, it changed its name to the current form, Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna), switching the abbreviation form to KD, in a gesture perceived by elements both inside and outside the party as helping deflect the belief that it was a strictly religious party. In 1998 the party had its best elections ever, gaining over 11% of the votes; it established itself as the fourth-largest party in the Riksdag, becoming larger than its former electoral partner the Centre Party. In the 2002 national elections, the party got fewer votes but still held on to its position as the fourth-largest party.

In 2004, Svensson stepped down in favor of his long-designated successor Göran Hägglund.

At the end of 2005, the party had 24,202 confirmed members, making it the fourth-largest party in size as well. Its membership is far more stable than most parties in Sweden. The Christian Democrats are represented in almost every municipality and region in Sweden.


The KD has previously held socially conservative views surrounding same sex marriage and in the early 2000s the party was criticized for being opposed to increased rights for homosexuals.[28][29] In 2007, the KD mostly voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage in parliament, with party leader Göran Hägglund stating "my position is that I have been tasked by the party to argue that marriage is for men and women. When we discuss it between parties we are naturally open and sensitive to each other's arguments and we'll see if we can find a line that allows us to come together."[30] However, the party has since moderated its stance and now supports keeping same-sex marriage legal, albeit saying that churches should make the final decision on whether to perform wedding ceremonies and not the state, and in 2015 voted to change its platform in order to support same-sex adoption.[31]

Alliance cabinet

As a member of the Alliance for Sweden, the winning side in the 2006 general election, the Christian Democrats got three minister posts in the Reinfeldt cabinet. The minister posts were held by Göran Hägglund, Mats Odell and Maria Larsson. Unlike the Moderate Party and the Liberal People's Party, the Christian Democrats and the Centre Party avoided scandals for personal conduct and accusations for espionage against the competing Social Democratic Party.

Hägglund, however, received criticism internally for defending the party's pro-choice stance on abortion, which some older members believed had contributed to the decline of the party in recent years.[32] The Alliance cabinet's stance against unemployment and sick-listed benefits have been criticised by former party leader Alf Svensson, while the Sven Otto Littorin of the Moderate Party went into aggressive counterattack, but the Christian Democratic ministers were silent.[33]

Decline and internal strife

Support of the Christian Democrats significantly declined in the European elections of 2009, where the former party leader Alf Svensson got the party's sole seat in the European Parliament at the expense of the party's top candidate Ella Bohlin. Though Bohlin had run her campaign with a focus on limiting alcohol and outlawing traditional Swedish snuff,[34] Göran Hägglund stated in a speech two weeks after the elections that he wanted to "prohibit the prohibitions" and spoke about the difference between the values of the "people of reality" and the left-wing cultural elite.[35][36] Some claim that this was not followed up by any political suggestions in the 2010 general election,[37] where the party declined once again. Hägglund was criticized for not being controversial enough by MP Ebba Busch,[38] and it was suggested that around a quarter of the party's representatives would like him to resign.[39] Other commentators have suggested that the party's decrease in support has coincided with the rise of the Sweden Democrats, who gained the support of socially and culturally conservative Swedish voters.[40]

The politics of the Young Christian Democrats have shifted to the right in the past few years,[41] a change that has been attributed to many conservative ex-members of the Moderate Party joining the organization.[42] Swedish political news magazine Fokus has stated that the conflict on traditional Christian moral questions (abortion, gay rights, stem cell research) is secondary to the conflict between those who want a Christian democratic and centrist party focused on social responsibility in addition to environmental questions, and those who want a traditional right-wing party focusing on populism and economic liberalism.[43] The latter group has founded a network called FFFF (Freedom, family, diligence and enterprise), a group that has clear influences coming from Thatcherism.[43] Christian Democratic youth leader Aron Modig has stated that he wants the Christian Democrats to become the "Tea Party" of Sweden, and push the government when it fails to present a likeminded vision of society.[44]

Election of Ebba Busch

In 2015, the young deputy Mayor of Uppsala Ebba Busch was elected as new party leader. She moved the party towards a new more right-wing and secular position. In the 2018 election she showed herself to be a fierce debater lifting her party from what had been predicted as a sure defeat to the best election result in nearly 20 years.

In 2019, after the new government was announced the KD harhsly criticized the incoming government and the liberal parties supporting it. To create an alternative to the center-left government the KD opened up to cooperation with the Sweden Democrats[45] This move was popular with the voters and during this period the party saw continually increased support in the opinion polls.

Ahead of the European election the party had reached 13% in the opinion polls, which if it would have been the election result would be the best result for the Christian Democracts ever.[46] This passed after the election when the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter posted an article showing the KD’s MEP Lars Adaktusson voting no to the expansion of abortion rights 22 times while he sat in the European Parliament between 2014 and 2019.[47] The situation for the party worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic where, as in most other countries, smaller opposition parties saw a decrease whilst the governments strengthened their support.

2022 election

Ahead of the 2022 election, the Christian Democrats continued the party's turn to the right in a number of issues. In migration the party advocates a reduction in the number of refugees let into Sweden by 70%.[48] The party's youth wing, KDU, went out and caused a stir after they proposed repatriation of migrants that have come, and that are coming, to Sweden.[49] Ahead of the Folk och Försvar conference in 2020 the party proposed a doubling of the Swedish Defence budget so that it would meet the 2% of GDP spending each year.[50]

During the 2022 election campaign, the party tried to grow by attracting Sweden's rural voters introducing new policies within the area as well as criticizing both the historically agrarian Centre Party and the Social Democrats, accusing them of having abandoned rural Sweden.[51] The party also recruited former parliamentarian for the Centre Party, Staffan Danielsson and made him head of a party-associated organisation for farmers.[52] Their opponents answered these attacks by calling the KD populist - criticising the use of anti-elitist rhetoric and for unhistorical references to a "made up" Swedish heartland.

The election was not a success for the Christian Democrats losing three MP:s. But as a part of the overall center-right coalition that Ebba Busch had been instrumental in creating the party joined the new Kristersson cabinet. The party received six ministerial portfolios and Ebba Busch was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister.

Voter base

Ideologically the KD is a centre-right Christian democratic party that during the last few years has shifted to the right and adopted more conservative policies.[53] Historically a large part of its voter base lay among those who belong to evangelical fellowships known in Sweden as free churches (Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, etc.) together with likeminded Lutherans (such as Göran Hägglund and Mats Odell). These churches have many followers in Småland and along the Swedish west coast,[54] the regions in which the party is politically strongest. Important voter groups are senior citizens, families, voters in rural areas,[55] members of free churches and citizens that belong to the upper middle class.

The party is a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and the Centrist Democrat International (CDI).

Electoral results

Parliament (Riksdag)

Election Votes % Seats +/– Government
1964 75,389 1.8 (#6)
0 / 233
New Extra-parliamentary
1968 72,377 1.5 (#7)
0 / 233
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1970 88,770 1.8 (#6)
0 / 350
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1973 90,388 1.8 (#6)
0 / 350
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1976 73,844 1.4 (#6)
0 / 349
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1979 75,993 1.4 (#6)
0 / 349
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1982 103,820 1.9 (#6)
0 / 349
Steady 0 Extra-parliamentary
1985[a] 131,548 2.4 (#6)
1 / 349
Increase 1 Opposition
1988 158,182 2.9 (#7)
0 / 349
Decrease 1 Extra-parliamentary
1991 390,351 7.1 (#5)
26 / 349
Increase 26 Coalition
1994 225,974 4.1 (#7)
15 / 349
Decrease 11 Opposition
1998 618,033 11.7 (#4)
42 / 349
Increase 27 Opposition
2002 485,235 9.2 (#4)
33 / 349
Decrease 9 Opposition
2006 365,998 6.6 (#5)
24 / 349
Decrease 9 Coalition
2010 333,696 5.6 (#8)
19 / 349
Decrease 5 Coalition
2014 284,806 4.6 (#8)
16 / 349
Decrease 3 Opposition
2018 409,478 6.3 (#6)
22 / 349
Increase 6 Opposition
2022 345,712 5.3 (#6)
19 / 349
Decrease 3 Coalition
  1. Center Party

Regional councils

Election Votes % Seats +/–
1966 68,890 1.9
1 / 1,513
Increase 1
1970 86,513 1.9
2 / 1,524
Increase 1
1973 96,42 2.1
8 / 1,519
Increase 6
1976 97,62 1.9
8 / 1,683
Steady 0
1979 102,801 2.0
12 / 1,705
Increase 4
1982 123,588 2.4
21 / 1,717
Increase 9
1985 102,661 2.0
18 / 1,733
Decrease 3
1988 151,323 3.1
40 / 1,743
Increase 22
1991 348,763 7.0
132 / 1,763
Increase 92
1994 191,004 3.7
58 / 1,777
Decrease 74
1998 516,813 10.0
168 / 1,646
Increase 110
2002 428,804 8.2
141 / 1,656
Decrease 27
2006 360,183 6.6
116 / 1,656
Decrease 25
2010 268,126 5.0
82 / 1,662
Decrease 34
2014 317,270 5.2
85 / 1,678
Increase 3
2018 457,679 7.1
119 / 1,696
Increase 34
2022 469,033 7.3
133 / 1,720
Increase 15

Municipal councils

Election Votes % Seats +/–
1966 66,551 1.5
353 / 29,546
Increase 353
1970 91,201 1.8
286 / 18,327
Decrease 67
1973 106,355 2.1
250 / 13,236
Decrease 36
1976 108,557 2.0
237 / 13,247
Decrease 13
1979 115,478 2.1
276 / 13,369
Increase 39
1982 136,494 2.4
326 / 13,500
Increase 50
1985 113,292 2.0
278 / 13,520
Decrease 48
1988 152,427 2.8
360 / 13,564
Increase 82
1991 318,762 5.8
815 / 13,526
Increase 455
1994 180,264 3.2
425 / 13,550
Decrease 390
1998 421,783 8.0
1,069 / 13,388
Increase 644
2002 376,657 7.0
1,013 / 13,274
Decrease 56
2006 320,027 5.8
813 / 13,092
Decrease 200
2010 257,919 4.3
591 / 12,978
Decrease 222
2014 248,070 4.0
515 / 12,780
Decrease 76
2018 339,375 5.2
676 / 12,700
Increase 161
2022 348,420 5.4
755 / 12,614
Increase 79

European Parliament

Election Votes % Seats +/-
1995 105,173 3.9 (#7)
0 / 22
1999 193,354 7.6 (#6)
2 / 22
Increase 2
2004 142,704 5.7 (#8)
1 / 19
Decrease 1

148,141 4.7 (#8)
1 / 18
1 / 20
Steady 0
Steady 0
2014 220,574 5.9 (#8)
1 / 20

357,856 8.6 (#6)
2 / 20
2 / 21
Increase 1
Steady 0
2024 239,530 5.71 (#7)
1 / 21
Decrease 1

Christian Democratic politicians

Party chairperson

1964–1972 Birger Ekstedt
1973–2004 Alf Svensson
2004–2015 Göran Hägglund
2015–present Ebba Busch

Vice chair

1964-1968 Lewi Pethrus
1968–1979 Åke Gafvelin
1979–1982 Ernst Johansson
1982–1985 Maj-Lis Palo
1985–1993 Jan Erik Ågren
1993–2003 Inger Davidson
2003–2015 Maria Larsson
2015–present Jakob Forssmed

Second vice chair

1965–1976 Sven Enlund
1976–1979 Jona Eriksson
1979–1982 Maj-Lis Palo
1982–1987 Stig Nyman
1987–1989 Rose-Marie Frebran
1989–1990 Britt-Marie Laurell
1990–1993 Ingrid Näslund
1993–2003 Anders Andersson
2003–2004 Göran Hägglund
2004–2012 Mats Odell (Minister of Communications 1991–1994)
2012–2015 David Lega (MEP 2019-)
2015–2017 Emma Henriksson
2017–2019 Lars Adaktusson
2019– Bengt Germundsson

Party secretary

1964–1972 Bertil Carlsson
1972–1978 Stig Nyman
1978–1985 Per Egon Johansson
1985–1989 Dan Ericsson
1989–1991 Inger Davidson (Minister of civil infrastructure 1991–1994)
1991–1993 Lars Lindén (MP 2002–2008)
1994–2002 Sven Gunnar Persson (MP 2002–2008)
2002–2006 Urban Svensson
2006–2010 Lennart Sjögren
2010–2018 Acko Ankarberg Johansson
2018–2022 Peter Kullgren
2022–2023 Johan Ingerö
2023–present Liza-Maria Norlin

Parliamentary group leader in the Riksdag

1991–2002 Göran Hägglund
2002–2010 Stefan Attefall
2010–2012 Mats Odell
2012–2015 Emma Henriksson
2015–2022 Andreas Carlson
2022–present Camilla Brodin

Other famous Christian democrats

Affiliated organisations


See also

Further reading

  • Madeley, John T.S. (2004). "Christian Democratic Parties in Europe Since the End of the Cold War". In Steven Van Hecke; Emmanuel Gerard (eds.). Life at the Northern Margin: Christian Democracy in Scandinavia. Leuven University Press. pp. 217–241. .


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