“There is an enormous amount of experience to pour out from among people who have been active in the business world, often with a burning commitment to our society”, says Ebba Lindsö, who has held a number of important positions in both media and business, including as CEO of the Swedish Business Administration within the Christian Democrats’ party board in several rounds in the 90s and 00s.’You get so much more to contribute if you have been active in different industries, this can apply to business as well as the public sector and in politics. The understanding between these areas is perhaps not always as great as it should be.” Many members of the Riksdag today have studied political science, been active in a youth association and started working in politics as young people, says Ebba Lindsö. “Our parliament would be more powerful if we had a more diverse background,” she says. Others who have worked in both politics and business share that picture: “More people from the business world would need to get involved politically so that the understanding of the importance of a good business climate is kept alive in the parties and the social debate,” says Stefan Stern, former Social Democratic state secretary who later worked in both the Wallenberg sphere and at the investment company Nordstiernan. The path from politics to business is much more common than the opposite. But there are still plenty of such examples, Di’s probing shows. Filip Fridolfsson, for example, went from being a coffin manufacturer to becoming a colorful moderate Member of Parliament during the 70s and 80s. Gerard De Geer, the resilient bandy baron from Lesjöfors, was manager (i.e. CEO) of several companies but also had a political career within the People’s Party, including as a minister in the Ullsten government. Some recent examples are Antonia Ax:son Johnson’s work within the same party, as well as the prominent role of business leader Gustaf Douglas within the Moderates. Jan Teorell, professor of political science at Stockholm University, says that Swedish politics is sometimes described as a wide corridor, with few doors along the way. “We have a socially representative body of politicians. They come from all possible sections of society. But you almost have to start in a youth association and make coffee to make the long journey to the top. Not many people go in and out.”In Jan Teorell’s comparison is the corresponding corridor in the US, on the other hand, is narrow, but with many doors. The political circle there is characterized by wealthy people and lawyers are overrepresented. “But on the other hand, it’s common that you step in and out,” he says, meaning that shifts between business and politics are more common. It brings many advantages and can reduce citizens’ sense of distance from politicians, reasons Jan Teorell. “The opposite is that politicians become a caste, a professional guild that never had regular jobs.” At the same time, there are problems with quick changes, adds the political scientist, because it can create room for corruption, or suspicions of such. “It’s the downside with the open doors,” says Jan Teorell. Olle Lundin, professor of administrative law at Uppsala University, says that in local politics issues often arise. “It is quite common that the person who sits on the building committee also has interests in the construction sector,” he says and mentions a horror example where a municipal council owned a furniture store, where the municipality in question was by far the largest customer. “There is also a case with a municipal councilor who owned a restaurant. He made sure that all the conferences organized by the municipality were held there.” This creates fertile ground for mistrust. “It is good to have politicians with different experiences. But the intersection between the public and the private can also be dangerous,” says Olle Lundin. Before Sunday’s election, there are candidates with business history at both national and regional level. Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar was for many years the CEO of a 3D visualization agency, while S minister colleague Anna Hallberg has worked for two decades at SEB, as well as at Öhman. Joachim Gahm, once CEO of Öhman and now chairman of the wind power company Arise, stands out with an attention-grabbing personal election campaign for the council in Danderyd. He was admittedly excluded from KD 2019 after a series of statements, including about Muslims and the abortion issue, but came back into the heat and is now running a very active personal election campaign that has become the talk of the town in Djursholm. “He is not our first choice, I can say that. And he has come out with a personal election project, but only he is behind it, not the board. He has done this on his own initiative. He has the legal right to do that. We can’t stop someone from running a personal election campaign, but it’s a bit strange because he’s already in an electable place. What he has to gain from this, no one really knows,” says Gunnar Liljegren, chairman of the party department for KD in Danderyd, recently to Expressen. A review of occupational titles on ballots from the newspaper Arbetsvärlden shows that the title entrepreneur has gained ground in recent years, however at the expense of small business owners. Furthermore, the title CEO is most diligently represented on moderate ballots, while the Center Party boasts many dairy farmers. Dominika Peczynski, parliamentary candidate for the Liberals, points out that many probably see her as belonging to the entertainment industry, despite running a company for over 20 years. She urges more entrepreneurs, regardless of orientation, to also get involved in politics: “Perhaps not just because they are entrepreneurs, but because they are older,” says Dominika Peczynski, who herself is 51 years old. “In the second part of middle age, you have some kind of empathic maturity. You have accumulated life wisdom and experience. At the same time, you’re as energetic as a teenager,” she tells Di after she hands out election brochures outside the Fältöversten shopping center in Stockholm. “Successful entrepreneurs who have reached a certain age probably make excellent politicians. It’s good to have come in from the side and not always been a politician,” continues Dominika Peczynski. Ebba Lindsö also highlights the latter half of life as a good starting point for politics. “There is a frustration among many where you really want to see change, where you want to get involved. It is not right to simply complain about the decisions that the Riksdag makes. Try to get involved politically if you don’t think it’s going well,” says Ebba Lindsö and adds that the lion’s share of all trust assignments in Sweden are actually aimed at leisure politicians. “You can actually do a political job on the side. It can be more interesting than playing golf, for example.”
Business people in the police force:
Current in this weekend’s election: Joachim Gahm, former CEO of Öhman and chairman of the wind power company Arise. Candidate in the municipal election in Danderyd. Magnus Gottås, venture capitalist and investor, is active as a candidate in the New Danderyd Party. Elisabeth Thand Ringqvist (C) was until recently chairman of Storskogen but is now running for the Riksdag. She previously served as State Secretary. Dominika Peczynski (L). TV personality who runs a PR agency that is on the liberal era’s parliamentary list. Anna Hallberg (S) Minister of Trade. The S minister with a long career at SEB, has also had a board position in Lifcos before she became a minister.Khashayar Farmanbar (S) Minister of Energy and Digitization who for many years was CEO of a 3D visualization agency. Previous examples: Ebba Lindsö (Kd) has held a number of CEO positions in media and business, but has also been active in KD’s party board and as a candidate for both the Riksdag and the EU Parliament. Peter Norman (M) entered the political world after a career in the financial market. He joined the Moderates a few days before the appointment as Minister of Finance and Markets. Stig Rindborg, bankruptcy lawyer who became finance county councilor in the Stockholm county council in the 1980s. The bandy baron Gerhard de Geer from Lesjöfors, business leader and populist who sat in the Ullsten government. Ulf Dinkelspiel, diplomat who was a minister in the Bildt government, but also worked at the Öhman family business and as CEO of the Export Council. Filip Fridolfsson, Likkist manufacturer and legendary moderate Member of Parliament in the 70s and the 80s. Ulf Laurin, CEO of PLM and later chairman of Svenskt Näringsliv, who became moderate county association chairman in Malmö. Per Westerberg, worked at SaabScania and within the family empire Cewe Instrument, as well as as a moderate minister and speaker of the Riksdag. Mikael Storåkers, advertising man who was CEO of Bukowskis, was for a long time a central and tone-setting voice within the Moderates. We of course have Antonia Ax:son Johnson, who led the family empire through Axel Johnson AB, has been a member of the municipal council in Upplands Väsby and a leading voice for the Liberals. Gustaf Douglas, financier and business manager who has long been a member of the Moderates’ party board. Bert Karlsson, multi-tasking entrepreneur who created Ny Demokrati in the 1990s together with Ian Wachtmeister, who was later active as an entrepreneur with the carbon dioxide company The Empire. Olle Wästberg was the CEO of Stiftelsen Aktiefrämjandet when he became a Member of Parliament in 1976. Nils Lundgren, national economist who in 2004 created the EU-critical party Junilistan, which he also represented in the European Parliament.