There are currently two different stories about why Littorin resigned.
His own story is that of a minister who has gone through a very difficult custody battle with his ex-wife, a personal tragedy that some media have fed to their readers, and thus exposed his children to damaging publicity.
When Aftonbladet presented the allegations about him buying sex, he was simply tired of the dirty tricks, both privately and politically. Despite his innocence, he resigned since he could not cope with the psychic pressure.
Aftonbladet's story is about a minister who resigned after he was confronted with allegations about having bought sex. A man with power have used the desperation of a socially vulnerable woman. A minister who commits a crime, and violates a law that his own government wants to strengthen. A powerful man who avoid straight answers by referring to his children.
Perhaps we may soon know if Littorin really is guilty of the crime, or we may never get any answers. The prostitute says she does not want to make a police report. Whatever the merits of the case, I think there are two interesting angles in the context of the scandal.
That is; what this scandal says about Sweden, and what could be the political entailments in the light of the upcoming General Election, ten weeks from now.
Sex, lies and gender equality
According to the self-image, Sweden is a modern, gender equal country, with a sophisticated political system. In Sweden, you control your impulses, and follows the law to the letter, especially if you are a politician. Men are not animals, and women are not whores.
But then it happens, a minister is said to have hired a prostitute.
Both for the Swedes who believe in the self-righteous image of the country, as for the foreign observers who assume that Sweden is inhabited by feminist fathers on year-long paternity leaves, this is of course difficult to understand.
Are there really prostitutes in “socialist” Sweden? And why would a politician who want to impose quotas on company boards take advantage of a woman on the bottom of society? On the other hand, if you have read Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy novels you may not be especially surprised, since you then know that also in Sweden there are “men who hate women”.
But to be a little bit more serious, it is mainly in the allegation you find the answer to what is especially Swedish in this political scandal. I assume that a similar scandal in the United States also would have lead to an resignation by the accused politician. But for different reasons.
What in the U.S mainly is a violation of moral laws, is in Sweden a human rights violation. It is primarily not a reprehensible act against the marriage as an institution, but something that have a detrimental impact on society.
The combination of high politics and prostitution is not a bit glamorous or sexually suggestive. A Swedish prostitute is not given any book deals, she is a victim and shall get help by the social authorities. She will not be on the front page of magazines, interviewed about all the dirty details, she is a soiled extra in a real life social realist film about sexist power structures.
It is thus not primarily Littorin's own sexual moral that is the problem, but his possible violations of the Swedish superstructure of gender equality, and what it stipulates about the relationship between power, gender and sexuality.The scandal lies in an “feminist hypocrisy” by the minister.
If the scandal will have any impact on the election, and if so what kind of effect, is too early to say. Mainly because we can not know who is right, Littorin or Aftonbladet.
If it should prove that the accusations are false, this can give some sympathy for Littorin and his Moderate Party (liberal-conservative). Then they have suffered a serious mudslinging attempt by a newspaper close to the antagonistic Social Democrats.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and the party leadership says that they do not know if Sven-Otto Littorin bought sex or not. They thus distances themselves from Littorin as much as they can and take no chances. For this, Reinfeldt has been criticized for acting too cold-hearted.
The party leadership knows that they are very close to a minefield, just when the election is heading into the final act. A scandal is the last thing they want. And the spin-doctors in the party knows that each word or phrase must be weighted on golden scales.
If it shows to be any substance in the allegations, Fredrik Reinfeldt could end up in the middle of the mess, and it becomes a hassle to get out. Poll numbers may be affected. Partners in the party coalition may become uneasy. Every voter will ask themselves “how much did the PM know?”
But the minefield also exists for political opposition. If they appear to be too spiteful, it may backfire on them. Yesterday the leader of the Social Democrats, Mona Sahlin, in a comment ventilated suspicions that Reinfeldt had participated in "a deliberate cover-up". But if the PM comes clean out of this, it could damaged Sahlin to have made such an allegation.
Minister for Employment steps down
Aftonbladet: Littorin bought sex