STOCKHOLM (AP) — Thorbjorn Falldin, a pipe-smoking sheep farmer who became prime minister in Sweden’s first non-Socialist government after World War II, has died at 90.
Falldin, who had led the Center Party, died on Saturday evening at his farm in northeastern Sweden, Center Party leader Annie Loof said.
Loof described Falldin as one of the top political leaders of the 20th century in Sweden.
“He was a sharp politician and confident leader and a committed and caring person,” she wrote on the party’s website. “He is a true model and icon for many of us.”
As head of the agrarian party, Falldin led a center-right coalition to power in 1976, ending 40 years of Social Democratic rule. Two years later the government collapsed amid disputes over nuclear power, which Falldin’s party strongly opposed at the time.
He was reappointed prime minister after the 1979 election, serving until 1982, when his government was defeated by Olof Palme’s Social Democrats.
Falldin was born on April 24, 1926, into a family of farmers in the northern village of Hogsjo. Throughout his political career he remained close to his roots, returning to his farm on weekends to care for the sheep or dig up potatoes.
Falldin’s calm, quiet manner contrasted with Palme’s wit and sometimes aggressive debating style. The two dominated Swedish politics until Falldin resigned in 1985 after a dismal election result. Palme was assassinated a year later, a murder that remains unsolved.
Falldin rose through the ranks of the Center Party with grass-roots support and became party leader in 1971. He took the party in a pro-environment, anti-nuclear direction. To this day, the Center Party tries to be seen as the green alternative in Sweden’s non-Socialist camp, though it has relaxed its opposition to atomic energy.
Falldin is survived by his wife Solveig, their daughter and two sons.