Leila Ali Elmi, a Somali-Swedish woman from Gothenburg has won a seat in Sweden’s parliament known as the ‘Riksdag’, making her the first East African woman to be elected to parliament.
The news was well received by Sweden’s Somali community, a welcomed reprieve to the political uncertainty surrounding the election deadlock. This years election campaign was dominated by headlines from the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats (SD), whose populist rhetoric lurched the leftist liberal Scandinavian country to the right of the political spectrum.
Leila ran on the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) ticket for Angered district in Gothenburg. Her constituency is home to a large number of East African immigrants including at least 14,000 Somalis. She has been a member of the Angered district council since 2014.
Leila is a Somali native who sought refuge in Sweden along with her family in the early 1990’s while civil war-ravaged Somalia.
She grew up in Angered is a suburb in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. The suburb is tucked away into the north-eastern edge of the city, at the very end of the tramline and has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country at well over 10%.
Angered is described by commentators as “deprived and isolated” and is known as one of Sweden’s most notorious suburbs.
Leila says that education will be her main priority when she enters parliament.
“I come from a suburb and grew up in a suburb, the issue that matters to me is school policy, in the socioeconomically deprived areas it’s pretty bad schools, we have to focus on the school and that’s the question I especially when I enter the Riksdag.”
The centre-left red-green bloc (made up of the Social Democrats, Green Party, and Left Party) won 144 seats in total, while the centre-right Alliance (made up of the Moderate Party, Centre Party, Christian Democrats and Liberal Party) had 143. Meanwhile, the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats had won 62 seats.
Sweden’s election authority met on Sunday morning to finalize the result, and are expected to determine the final allocation of parliamentary seats before the afternoon.
The Riksdag building exterior, from the west, at night. Wiki Commons