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Victory for the social democrats in Sweden

Victory for the social democrats in Sweden

15/09/2002 - Results

It was a landslide victory for the Social Democrat Party in the Swedish general elections on 15th September. The SAP led by Göran Persson won 40% of the vote alone. It was the first time since the Second World War that an outgoing government party has increased the number of votes it has won during a general election. The Swedes preferred to defend their social security system rather than choose the drop in taxes promised by the Opposition parties.

Even though the left-right ratio remained stable in comparison with what it was four years ago (the left having won an additional seat in the Riksdag), the relationships within the two groups have changed quite a lot. Within the leftwing the SAP has progressed by 3.4% in comparison with its 1998 result and has thirteen additional seats, whilst the Greens have only progressed by 0.1% and have won 17 seats (+ 1) and 4.6% of the vote. The Left Party has recorded a significant drop losing nearly one third of its voters, - 3.6%, ie thirteen seats less than in 1998. The Social Democrats can therefore be proud of being the true victors of these elections.

Without an absolute majority in Parliament Göran Persson will probably continue government with the support of the ecologists and the Left Party and even the Opposition on a certain number of European subjects such as the adoption of the Euro. After the announcement of the results the ecologists called for "wider co-operation" with the SAP. Their support would be given on condition that they were awarded ministerial portfolios, a possibility that the Prime Minister had rejected during the electoral campaign. "I am leading a campaign to continue a Social Democrat project not to create a coalition government", declared Göran Persson just a few days ago. Major differences exist amongst the Swedish forces on the left, mainly in thr economic and social areas on the European agenda (the Left Party like the Greens are Eurosceptics and are against dropping the Swedish Kroner for the Euro). The Prime Minister will meet the different party leaders over the next few days before creating his government.

For their part the Conservatives have acknowledged their failure. It signifies a heavy defeat for the Moderate Assembly Party. They lost one third of the voters and 27 of their seats in Parliament, winning only 15.1% ie 7.8% less than in 1998 – its worst result for decades. As soon as the results were announced its leader Bo Lundgren whose personality, that is especially lacking in charisma, was particularly criticised during the campaign, stated his desire to continue leading the party in spite of this extremely poor result. The Liberals have achieved a breakthrough that was forecast by all the opinion polls (13.4% versus 4.7% in 1998), and have won 31 seats in Parliament becoming the third political party in Sweden just behind the moderate Party. The Centre Party has recorded a slight increase progressing from 5.1% to 6.2% and four seats. Finally the Christian Democrats have dropped beneath the 10% mark and with 9.1% against 11.8% four years ago, has lost four MP's. The participation rate dropped in comparison with the last elections and is the lowest since the 1950's.

The victory by Göran Persson, who at the age of 53 has been Prime Minister since 1996, has re-initiated the debate on Sweden's entry into the Euro Zone. The referendum that has been planned on the single currency should take place in the Spring or Autumn of 2003. The Prime Minister has to convene with the different party leaders by the end of this year in order to fix a a date for the vote and the wording of the question that is to be put to the Swedes. According to the latest polls a majority would be in favour of adopting the Euro. Sweden might be able to enter the Euro zone on 1St January 2005.However, not only will Göran Persson have to convince most of his countrymen but also the Left Party and the Greens as well as a number of members of his own party who are still opposed to economic and monetary Union. The Prime Minister has pointed out that his government will not hesitate in finding support amongst the rightwing on specific questions involving the European Union.

Apart from the 349 members of the Riksdag the Swedes also elected their local representatives on 15th September (town and general councillors). The Opposition recorded numerous defeats in symbolic towns and regions, with the left even taking Stockholm, the capital. "Don't let them do to Sweden as they did in Stockholm" the Prime Minister kept repeating during the campaign. The rightwing coalition had been in power for the past four years in the capital and had set up a privatisation programme for the public services (transport, refuse collection, etc.) running parallel to a lowering of council taxes. The inhabitants of Stockholm put an end to this experiment on Sunday and granted 52 seats to the left against 49 to the outgoing rightwing majority. The council elections will also be remembered for the progress made by the xeonophobic parties. Five parties won 57 mandates in 23 local councils, mainly in the south of the country. The Swedish Democrats (SD), the main extreme rightwing party won 34 seats in comparison with 8 in 1998. The National Democrats, a dissident branch of the Swedish Democrats, won two mandates in the suburbs of Stockholm. These parties have asserted their influence locally where they have been established for the last ten years.

Results of general elections on 15th September 2002:

Participation : 79%

Source Agence France Presse
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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