Sweden SocDems elect leader, seek way out of crisis

* Sweden’s Social Democrats elect leader to end party crisis

* Analysts see uphill struggle

By Niklas Pollard and Johan Sennero

STOCKHOLM, March 25 (Reuters) – Sweden’s opposition Social
Democrats elected a new leader on Friday to try to revitalise
the party after two straight election defeats, but the little
known party insider warned members that there was no quick fix.

Hakan Juholt, 48, was elected at an extraordinary congress
of the Social Democrats, who dominated Swedish politics for most
of the post-war era. The party is the largest in parliament but
only by a thin margin after losing to a resurgent centre-right.

The next parliamentary election is due in 2014.

“We won’t back down, but there is no easy way out, there is
no quick fix. We have a journey ahead of us that will take
time,” Juholt told the party congress. He said he would outline
his plans in more detail on Saturday.

Analysts said the party had lost its identity with voters.

“This crisis … boils down to the fact that the party over
many years has been moving out of step with the society and not
updated its policies to adjust to societal change and
development,” said Stockholm University political scientist
Jenny Madestam.

The Social Democrats held on to power for decades after they
created a modern welfare state and raised living standards.

But Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who won elections in
2006 and 2010, convinced voters his income tax cuts and trimming
of the welfare state were more worker-friendly in a country
where people have got steadily richer and more urban.

Analysts say Juholt will be faced with the choice of
returning to the party’s tax-and-spend roots or moving further
to the centre where the Moderates — the biggest party in the
coalition government — are the dominant force.

Reinfeldt lost his parliamentary majority at the last
election, though not due to a Social Democratic challenge.

In another sign of a changing Sweden, it was instead the
rise in support for an anti-immigrant party, which won its first
parliament seats, which deprived Reinfeldt of his majority.
(editing by Elizabeth Piper)

Sweden SocDems elect leader, seek way out of crisis