Mona Ingeborg Sahlin (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈmoː.ˈna saˈliːn] née Andersson; born 9 March 1957) is a Swedish politician who was leader of the opposition and leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party from 2007 to 2011.
Sahlin was a Member of Parliament, representing Stockholm County, from 1982 to 1996 and again from 2002 to 2011. She has also held various ministerial posts in the Swedish government from 1990 to 1991, from 1994 to 1995 and from 1998 to 2006. Sahlin was elected new leader of the Social Democratic Party on 17 March 2007, succeeding Göran Persson who resigned as leader following the defeat in the 2006 general election. Sahlin is the first female leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party and became in 2011 the first since Claes Tholin in 1907 to leave that position without having served as Prime Minister of Sweden. In 2012, her successor Håkan Juholt joined her as the second now living person to do so.
On 14 November 2010, following another electoral defeat for the Social Democrats, she announced her intent to step down as party chairman, which she did in early 2011.
Youth and education
Sahlin was born Mona Ingeborg Andersson in Sollefteå, Västernorrland County, Sweden. Her father, Hans Andersson, worked at different ungdomsvårdsskolor (community homes or reformatories), forcing the family to move frequently. In the mid 1960s they moved to Järla in Stockholm County where they remained. Her father later became an advisor to former Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson.
In 1964, at the age of seven, Sahlin founded the Swedish "Barbie Club" (Barbieklubben). During her childhood she also enjoyed soccer and music. In Melodifestivalen 1969 (the selection for the song to represent Sweden at the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest) Sahlin performed as one of the back up singers to Jan Malmsjö. The song was written by Benny Andersson and Lasse Berghagen and it came in second place.
Sahlin was educated at Nacka Samskola and Södra Latin in Stockholm and completed secondary school in 1977. From 1976 to 1977 she was vice chairperson of the Swedish Pupils' Association (Swedish: Elevförbundet). Thereafter she worked at a private company and later as a trade union representative for the Swedish National Union of State Employees.
Sahlin's political career began in the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League in Nacka, Stockholm County, in 1973, at the age of 16. This was during the Vietnam War, and already as a 13-year-old Sahlin had joined the Swedish FNL group.
In the Swedish general election of 1982 Sahlin was elected to the Riksdag as the youngest member of parliament at that time. In 1990, she became Minister for Employment, but after the Social Democrats lost power in the 1991 election, Sahlin began to serve as chairman of the Riksdag's Committee on the Labour Market and as spokesman for the Social Democrats on labour market issues. From 1992 to 1994 she was party secretary, a post she left to rejoin the government as Minister for Gender Equality and Deputy Prime Minister, when the Social Democrats regained power in the 1994 election.
In October 1995 the newspaper Expressen following an investigation led by Christian Democratic Spanish-Swedish Public Auditor Carlos Medina de Rebolledo revealed that Sahlin, who was then serving as Deputy Prime Minister and was widely seen as the main candidate to succeed Ingvar Carlsson as Prime Minister, had charged more than 50,000 Swedish kronor for private expenses on her working charge card, which was only for working expenses. At a news conference she admitted that she had used a Government credit card to buy groceries. She further confessed to having failed to pay 19 parking tickets and several bills for her children's day care on time. Later, she apologized in a Stockholm newspaper. A preliminary investigation was initiated by the chief prosecutor Jan Danielsson, as a result of the transactions, and was closed in early 1996 when it came to the conclusion that there was no infringement. She eventually paid the bills (and an extra of 15,000 kronor) to the Treasury. The controversy was dubbed as the "Toblerone affair" due to the inclusion of Toblerone bars on the credit card statement.
On May 5, 2016, Sahlin stepped down from her position as Sweden's national coordinator against violence-embracing extremism, due to revelations by the newspaper Expressen that she had lied about her lifeguard's salary, in order to help him secure a mortgage. The lifeguard had a monthly salary of 43 000 SEK, but Mona Sahlin wrote a confirmation letter stating that he had a salary of 120 000 SEK. When confronted with the issue, she first made a false statement that she had paid the difference out of her own pocket, before retracting the statement after it was proven by Expressen to actually be false. Media were quick to point out similarities to the so-called Toblerone case of the 1990s when Sahlin was caught using her government credit card to pay for private expenses and then dodging the issue when confronted.  
Break from politics and return
From 1996 to 1997, Sahlin worked as a self-employed owner of a small company and as a television reporter. In 1997 she was elected chairman of the European Council Against Racism and in 1998 she became the head of the Social Democratic youth education school Bommersvik.
Sahlin returned to national politics in 1998 when then Prime Minister Göran Persson appointed her as Minister without Portfolio. She served first in the Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communication from 1998 to 2002, then from 2002 to 2004 in the Ministry of Justice as the "Minister for Democracy and Integration", and from 2004 to 2006 in the Ministry of Sustainable Development as the "Minister for Sustainable Development".
Social Democratic Party leadership
After the Social Democratic defeat in the 2006 election, Göran Persson announced his retirement as party leader on the election night. It was clear that the party now wanted a female leader. Mona Sahlin was mentioned as a possible successor, but not considered to be the most likely candidate. Both Margot Wallström and Carin Jämtin received stronger support amongst local and regional party organisations. Ulrica Messing was also mentioned as a possible candidate. Wallström, Jämtin and Messing declared however that they would not stand for the post and instead supported Sahlin, leaving Mona Sahlin as the only serious candidate. On 18 January she was officially asked by the party's Election Committee to stand as party leader, and accepted. On 17 March she was unanimously elected at the extra party congress in Stockholm.
In January 2007, support for the new centre-right government of Sweden had dropped greatly in the polls, which showed the left bloc (including the Green Party) as having much stronger support. This provided Mona Sahlin, as leader of the biggest opposition party, with excellent opportunities to lead the opposition against the PM Fredrik Reinfeldt. By April 2009 however, the support had waned and a Demoskop poll published in Expressen showed that the four-party Alliance claimed a combined 50 percent voter support while the Sahlin-led opposition had 45.2 percent. Later the same month a Sifo poll showed that merely 27 percent of Swedes were confident or extremely confident in her leadership ability, while the public confidence in Reinfeldt was measured at 60 percent.
Mona Sahlin is often described as a scion of the party's more moderate members, and a number of left-wing party members criticised her candidacy for party leader. Much of this criticism was silenced in January 2007 when the chairman of the Trade Union Confederation, Wanja Lundby-Wedin, expressed full support for Sahlin as well as several powerful party districts around the country.
In the election to the European Parliament held on 7 June 2009 – Sahlin's first election as party leader – the Social Democratic Party received 24.41 percent of the votes (a slight reduction from the 2004 election in which the party received 24.56 percent). The result was the lowest for the Social Democratic Party since the introduction of universal suffrage in Sweden in 1921. In a speech before trade unionists during the election campaign on 12 May 2009, Sahlin said: "If there's not a plus in front of our figures it's a deep failure".
She led the Social Democratic Party in the election of September 2010 where she failed to unseat Frederik Reinfeldt as Prime Minister. The Social Democrats received the lowest recorded percentage of the votes in their long history but were still the largest party in Sweden by a slim margin in 2010. She resigned as party leader on 25 March 2011, becoming the second Social Democratic Party leader to have resigned without having served as prime minister.
Mona Sahlin has one brother and two sisters. Her brother, Janne "Japop" Andersson, used to be the lead singer of the pop group Japop and owns his own production company. Her sister Lena (Ridemar) is director of negotiation at the Swedish Union of Tenants (Swedish: Hyresgästföreningen) and her other sister works at SEB (Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken).
In 1976 Sahlin met the Chilean David Peña at a Social Democrat youth camp in Kramfors. Their daughter Ann-Sofie was born in 1978, but the relationship only lasted for a few years. In 1982 she married her current husband Bo Sahlin, with whom she has had three children: Jenny (b. 1983), Gustav (b. 1989), and Johan who died after ten months as a result of heart failure. Sahlin has talked openly about the death of her son Johan.