Yesterday after a longer illness and at just 69 years old, the former “strong man” of Gothenburg, Göran Johansson passed away. That seems like a good reason to republish this portrait of him. I took this picture on 4th October 2008 when he took part in celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Keillers Park. The picture was originally published here on 2nd October 2012. All his life, Johansson suffered from lupus (SLE), which caused his face to look swollen and red.
In his time and within Sweden Göran Johansson was one of the most well known of Swedish local politicians. He sat in the Gothenburg City Council for the Social Democratic Party for 37 years and was for 19 years the Council’s Chairman – effectively the Mayor of Gothenburg. He never achieved great international recognition (though, as Wikipedia records, he was in 2008 longlisted for the World Mayor award).
Immensely popular, charismatic and effective in debate, he had the reputation of getting things done. He said of himself “If you are going to be a leader, you must want something. I could sit here and shuffle paper but then I wouldn’t get anything done.”
Over time, his leadership style affected the way Gothenburg politics was run, and while no one believes Göran Johansson himself was corrupt, “the Gothenburg spirit” has a corrupt, darker side that some blame him for fostering. His style also made him made enemies among some women politicians beyond and within his own party.
Nevertheless, he remains someone very many Gothenburgers looked up to, regardless of political ideology. A Book of Condolences was opened late yesterday in the City Hall for Gothenburgers to write in, and the local press reports a steady stream of visitors coming to pay their respects.
Göran Johansson’s daughter Anna Johansson was recently appointed as Sweden’s new Infrastructure Minister.
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Apart from Wikipedia, I also used Swedish language reports on the Swedish Radio website and Aftonbladet to write the above.