Persson first entered national politics in 1979, becoming a member of Parliament. During his legislative tenure, he has gained considerable and varied political experience. Persson was appointed to the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs with special responsibility for schools and adult education in 1989 during the Ingvar Carlsson administration. While the SAP was in opposition between 1991 and 1994, Persson was chairman of the Standing Committee on Agriculture (1991–92), a member of the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade (1992–93), and vice-chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance (1993–94). After the return of the SAP to power in 1994, Persson was appointed minister of finance, achieving considerable success by reducing welfare benefits and cutting government expenditures. The economic difficulties of the 1990s precipitated in the minds of many the need for fiscal conservatism, for which Persson was selected. Although it is widely perceived that Carlsson was grooming Mona Sahlin, then deputy prime minister, to succeed him upon retirement, a minor scandal involving the misuse of a government credit card compelled party leaders to seek an alternative candidate to lead the SAP. In March 1996, Persson was selected to become chairman of his party. He was confirmed as prime minister one week later of a minority Social Democratic government. In 1998, he won the election and brought in new faces into the cabinet. After the 2002 election, there was a minor change in cabinet post and the SAP formed yet again a minority government after they were unable to conclude an agreement on a coalition government.