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An historic victory for the rightwing opposition in the swedish general elections

An historic victory for the rightwing opposition in the swedish general elections

18/09/2006 - Results

The Alliance forces rallying four opposition parties – the Moderate (M), the People's Party-Liberals (FpL), the Christian Democrat Party (KD) and the Centre Party (C) achieved an historic victory in the general elections that took place in Sweden on 17th September. Together the four parties won 48.1% of the vote and 178 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag, the only Chamber in the Swedish Parliament.

With 26.1% of the vote (97 seats), the Moderate recorded a spectacular rise of 10.9 points in comparison with the last election on 15th September 2002. It was followed by the Centre Party (7.9% i.e. 1.7 points more than four years earlier, 29 seats), the Christian Democrat Party (6.6%, a decline of 2.6 points, 24 seats) and the People's Party-Liberals, who won 7.5% (28 seats) also recorded a strong decline (-5.9%) in comparison with the previous elections. The party certainly suffered the effects of the affair which irrupted just two weeks ago when a complaint filed by the Social Democrat Party revealed that Per Jodenius, a member of the Young Liberals (the youth section of the People's Party-Liberals) had used stolen access codes and passwords to break into the Social Democrats website 78 times between November 2005 and March 2006.

After twelve years in power the Göran Persson's party failed in the face of the opposition although it is still the kingdom's leading party by far. The Social Democrat Party won 35.2% of the vote and 130 seats. Its allies the Left Party (Vp) and the Greens (MP) achieved mitigated results: the Left Party declined (5.8%, i.e. 2.6 points less than four years ago when it already suffered a setback of 3.6 points), the Greens, conversely recorded a slight improvement (5.2%, + 0.6 points). Together the leftwing parties won 46.2% of the vote and 171 seats. According to political analyst Sören Holmberg, these general elections were the best since 1928 for the rightwing and the worst for the Social Democrats since the 1920's.

The participation rate which was slightly higher than during the last general election on 15th September 2002 – 80.4% did not benefit the Social Democrats in the end contrary to the forecasts made by political analysts.

"It was team work that helped us win. I want to lead Sweden as a representative of all Swedes", declared Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the main opposition party, the Moderate Assembly when the results were announced. "We campaigned as New Moderates, we won as New Moderates and with our partners we shall govern Sweden as New Moderates", he added.

The opposition leader succeeded in charming the Swedes thanks to his youth, charisma and the novelty he represents. He also succeeded in winning through as the man who has federated the opposition forces standing together for the first time in Sweden's history.

Fredrik Reinfeldt showed that he had learnt from the previous general elections when his party achieved its worst result for decades (15.1% of the vote, a loss of one third of its electorate and 27 seats in Parliament) by making his party "turn a 180° corner" according to political analyst Lena Mellin. Under his guidance the Moderate gave up its programme of cuts in social spending and tax reductions to promote the defence of the Welfare State (called the Folkhemmet, the People's House) to which the Swedes are very much attached. Far from wanting to modify the Swedish model in depth, Fredrik Reinfeldt now suggests making it more effective and correcting the abuse of it by encouraging the Swedes to work. He puts forward cuts in income tax levels for the lowest salaries and reductions in long term unemployment benefit. The leader of the Moderate is also in favour of more privatisation.

Finally Fredrik Reinfeldt is in favour of Sweden's entry into NATO if however there is a wide consensus on the part of society. He also hopes that his country will make greater commitment to the EU but does not plan however to organise a new referendum on Sweden's entry into the Economy and Monetary Union in the next four years.

41 year-old Fredrik Reinfeldt has an MBA from the University of Stockholm. He joined the Moderate when he was 18 and was elected MP for the first time in 1991 when he was 26 before becoming, the following year president of the Young Moderates. Eleven years later he took over the leadership of the party that was still trembling after its electoral defeat – three years later he succeeded in putting it back on the road to success. The opposition leader is married to Fililppa, Mayor of the town of Täby that lies in the northern suburbs of the capital Stockholm – the Moderate nicknames her "Hillary Clinton".

"The opposition secretly aims to dismantle the famous Swedish model. They want to change the system. They want something that will look more like the things we see in the rest of Europe. I am not impressed when I see development results in these countries. I want to maintain the Swedish model and the only guarantee for that is a Social Democrat victory on Sunday", repeated Göran Persson in the last days of the electoral campaign. But the words of the outgoing Prime Minister did not frighten voters many of whom undoubtedly expressed a certain amount of lassitude towards the social democrat government in this election. Göran Persson succumbed to the wear and tear of being in power and also maybe from having denied during the campaign that the country did have some problems. Certainly Sweden is experiencing a vigorous growth rate and is demonstrating excellent economic results. It is one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet and its inhabitants enjoy a very high standard of life. However the country is not totally safe from global socio-economic developments that endanger its famous model, a successful mix of liberalism and a strong Welfare State. Hence the Swedes gave expression to their growing concern during the electoral campaign, notably about the development of the labour market, which the outgoing Prime Minister swept aside with disdain. "We have created a model that ensures good economic growth and at the same time excellent security for those who live on the edge of society. Swedes think that it has worked well with the Social Democrats for the last seventy years", he kept repeating for weeks. Göran Persson, nicknamed HSB standing for "Han som bestämmer" (He who decides alone), was also accused of being authoritarian, arrogant and for tending to concentrate all of the power in his hands. "It isn't even the workers' movement that has governed Sweden for the last decade but one man", read the biggest Swedish daily the Dagens Nyheter, just before the general elections. The Social Democrat leader acknowledged his defeat as soon as the official results were announced and said that he would leave the presidency of the Social Democrat Party in March. "I assume total responsibility for this failure. I shall hand in my resignation and that of my government to the chairman of Parliament. We shall then organise ourselves to form a powerful and constructive opposition force", he declared. "We shall never accept alternating with the right. We shall come back. But the return will be without me. Thank you for granting me your confidence over all of these fantastic years but it is just that a new, young generation of Social Democrats take over to rise to the challenge of the right. I shall not undertake this. Someone else will do it", concluded Göran Persson.

By opting for the right the Swedes put an end to the longest reign of a Social Democrat Party in Europe (twelve years). It is also extremely significant that the opposition has won just as the country is experiencing continuous economic growth. Finally we should note that in a few days time the leader of the Moderate, Fredrik Reinfeldt will become the youngest Prime Minister Sweden has ever had.

General Election Results 17th September 2006 in Sweden

Participation rate : 80.4%

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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