30 May, 2018

Thorbjörn Fälldin


Nils Olof Thorbjörn Fälldin was a Swedish politician. He was Prime Minister of Sweden in three non-consecutive cabinets from 1976 to 1982, and leader of the Swedish Centre Party from 1971 to 1985.

Fälldin was born in Högsjö parish, Ångermanland, the son of the farmer Nils Johan Fälldin and his wife Hulda (née Olsson). He grew up in a farming family in Ångermanland, and in 1956 he and his wife, as a newlywed young couple, took over a small farm. However, the farming authorities did not approve the purchase, as the farm was considered too small and too run down for production, and so refused to provide farm subsidies. This fight led him into the youth branch of the Swedish agrarian party Farmers' League (Bondeförbundet), which in 1958 changed its name to the Centre Party. He and his family maintained their farm throughout his political life, and when he resigned from politics in 1985, he immediately returned to it.

Fälldin entered the Swedish national political stage when he was elected to the Swedish Riksdag in 1958 for the agrarian-rooted Centre Party. In competition with Johannes Antonsson, he became first vice-chairman of the party in 1969, and then chairman in 1971, succeeding veteran Gunnar Hedlund.  In the 1976 election, the Social Democrats sensationally lost their majority for the first time in 40 years. Following the 1979 election, Fälldin regained the post of Prime Minister, despite his party suffering major losses and losing its leading role in the centre-right camp, primarily due to public disenchantment with the Centre Party over its compromise on nuclear power with the nuclear-friendly Moderates, and he again formed a coalition government with the Liberals and the Moderates. This cabinet also lasted for two years, when disagreement over tax policies compelled the Moderates to leave the coalition. Fälldin continued as Prime Minister until the election in 1982.

After a disastrous second election defeat in 1985 Fälldin faced massive criticism from his party. He resigned as party leader and retired from politics. His posts since that time have included chairman of Föreningsbanken, Foreningen Norden and Televerket.  While serving as Prime Minister during the U 137 crisis in October–November 1981, Fälldin is remembered for the simple answer "Hold the border!" (Håll gränsen!) to the request for instructions from the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces when faced with a suspected Soviet raid to free the stranded submarine.

He died at the age of 90, on July 23, 2016.

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