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Sven Olof Joachim Palme ▶(?) (January 30, 1927 – February 28, 1986) was a Swedish politician. He was the leader of the Social Democratic Party from 1969 to 1986 and was Prime Minister of Sweden with a Privy Council Government from 1969 to 1976 and with a Cabinet Government from 1982.
Early life and education
Palme was born in Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden. He came from an upper-class background. However, his political orientation came to be influenced by Social Democratic ideas and ideals. This was mainly the effect of his travels in developing countries as a student leader (see below).
On a scholarship, he studied at Kenyon College, Ohio 1947-1948, graduating with a B.A. in less than a year. Inspired by the radical debate in the student community, he wrote a critical essay on Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. After hitchhiking through the U.S., he returned to Sweden to study law at Stockholm University. During his time at university, Palme became involved in student politics, working with the Swedish National Union of Students. In 1951, he became a member of the social democratic student association in Stockholm, although it seems he did not attend their political meetings at the time. The following year he was elected President of the Swedish National Union of Students, a position making it necessary to tone down party loyalties.
In 1953, Palme was recruited by social democratic Prime Minister Tage Erlander to work in his secretariat. From 1955 he was a board member of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League. In 1958 he was elected Member of Parliament.
Olof Palme held several cabinet posts from 1963 and onwards. In 1967 he became Minister of Education, and the following year he was the target of fierce criticism from left-wing students protesting against the government's plans for university reform. When party leader Tage Erlander stepped down in 1969, Palme was unanimously elected as the new leader by the Social Democratic party congress and succeeded Erlander as Prime Minister.
Palme's subsequent 125-month tenure as Prime Minister, and his untimely death, made him the most internationally-known Swedish politician of the 20th century (with the possible exception of the two "humanitarians" Raoul Wallenberg and Dag Hammarskjöld).
His protégé and political ally, Bernt Carlsson, who was appointed UN Commissioner for Namibia in July 1987, also suffered an untimely death. Carlsson was killed in the Pan Am Flight 103 crash on December 21, 1988 en route to the UN signing ceremony in New York, whereby South Africa granted a much-delayed independence to Namibia.
Palme was a controversial political figure on the international scene: his trenchant criticism of the United States for the Vietnam war; campaigning against nuclear weapons proliferation; condemnation of apartheid and advocating economic sanctions against South Africa; his support - both political and financial - for the African National Congress (ANC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); meeting with Fidel Castro of Cuba, all ensured that Palme had no shortage of enemies abroad. Domestically, too, his left-wing views engendered a great deal of hostility among Sweden's right-wingers.
At the time of his death, Palme had been accused of being pro-Soviet and not safeguarding Sweden's interests. Arrangements had therefore been made for him to go to Moscow to discuss a number of contentious issues, including alleged Soviet submarine incursions into Swedish waters.
Olof Palme could often be seen without any bodyguard protection, and the night of his murder was one such occasion. Walking home from a movie theatre with his wife Lisbet on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen, close to midnight on February 28, 1986, the couple were attacked by a lone gunman. Palme was shot twice in the stomach, his wife was shot in the back.
Police said that a taxi-driver used his mobile radio to raise the alarm. Two young girls sitting in a car close to the scene of the shooting tried to help the Prime Minister. He was rushed to hospital but was dead on arrival; Mrs Palme's wound was treated and she recovered. The attacker escaped eastwards on the crossing Tunnelgatan and disappeared.
Deputy Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson immediately assumed the duties as Prime Minister and as new leader of the Social Democratic Party.
a. a right-wing extremist Victor Gunnarsson was quickly arrested for the murder but was soon released, after a dispute between the police and prosecuting attorneys;
b. the Kurdish connection - Hans Holmér, the Stockholm police commissioner, followed up an intelligence lead passed to him (supposedly by Bertil Wedin) and arrested a number of Kurds living in Sweden, after allegations that one of their organisations, the PKK, was responsible for the murder. The lead proved inconclusive however and ultimately led to his removal from the Palme murder investigation. Fifteen years later, in April 2001, a team of Swedish police officers went to interview Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in a Turkish prison about Ocalan's allegations that a dissident Kurdish group, led by his ex-wife, murdered Palme. The police team's visit proved futile;
c. the fanatic - more than a year and a half after Palme's death Christer Pettersson, a small-time criminal, drug user and alcoholic, was arrested for the murder in December 1988. Identified by Mrs Palme as the killer, Pettersson was tried and convicted of the murder, but was later acquitted on appeal to the High Court. The appeal succeeded mainly because the murder weapon had not been found. Additional evidence against Pettersson surfaced in the late 1990s, mostly stemming from various petty criminals who had altered their stories but also from a confession made by Pettersson. The chief prosecutor, Agneta Blidberg, considered re-opening the case. But she acknowledged that a confession alone would not be sufficient, saying: "He must say something about the weapon because the appeals court set that condition in its ruling. That is the only technical evidence that could be cited as a reason to re-open the case." While the legal case against Pettersson therefore remains closed, the police file on the investigation cannot be closed until both murder weapon and murderer are found. Christer Pettersson died on September 29, 2004;
d. the apartheid South Africa connection - on February 21, 1986 - a week before he died - Palme made the keynote address to the Swedish People's Parliament against Apartheid which was held in Stockholm and was attended by hundreds of anti-apartheid sympathizers as well as leaders and officials from the ANC (Oliver Tambo) and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Over ten years later, in September 1996, Colonel Eugene De Kock, a former South African police officer, gave evidence to the Supreme Court in Pretoria. Col De Kock alleged that the Swedish Prime Minister was shot and killed in 1986 because "Mr Palme strongly opposed the apartheid regime and Sweden made substantial contributions to the ANC." De Kock also named those alleged to be responsible for the murder: another former South African police officer - turned superspy - Craig Williamson; Swedish mercenary Bertil Wedin (living in Northern Cyprus since 1985); and Anthony White, a former Rhodesian soldier with links to the South African security services. As a result, Swedish police investigators visited South Africa in October 1996 but drew a blank.
- Anna Lindh
- Bernt Carlsson
- Contadora Group
- Craig Williamson
- Dag Hammarskjöld
- Olof Palme International Center
- Bertil Wedin
- Swedish prime minister assassinated
- Experts doubt Palme case to reopen
- Ocalan questioned over Swedish murder
- The South African connection
- Karisable. Retrieved Feb. 14, 2005.
- Blood on the snow : The killing of Olof Palme Jan Bondeson, Cornell University Press, 2005
- Inuti labyrinten (Within the labyrinth) Kari and Pertti Poutiainen, Grimur, 1994
|Prime Minister of Sweden
|Prime Minister of Sweden