Some more commmentary on Sweden worth noting:
1. A pleased Johan Norberg explains how radical is the Alliance?
Almost all foreign observers - and some Swedish - ask me how radical Sweden´s new government will be. It depends on your comparison. If you compare it to my ideals they are obviously far from it. Don´t expect a liberal revolution. But if you compare it to other governments, my guess is that this government will lead Europe in reform.
It´s true that the moderates were...well...more moderate this time around. But on the other hand, the three other parties are more radical than they have been before, and will push in a more radical direction, for example centern wants more labour market reform and more open borders, folkpartiet wants lower taxes on high incomes and more free trade, and the christian democrats attacks the taxes on petrol and properties...
2. Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee thinks the defeat of Sweden's Social Democrats underlines how a bored electorate could easily turn to Cameron's Tories: Why Stockholm syndrome should terrify New Labour
The fall of the Social Democrats in Sweden reverberates around Europe, but sends particular shudders through those close friends of Goran Persson in Labour ranks. As strangers occupy Stockholm's governing corridors, here is a chilly memento mori for Labour.
...Here is Labour's fear. How can a good government lose power when the country is flourishing? With a rising growth rate of 5.6%, low interest rates, thriving manufacturing and exports Britain would die for, how did it happen? True, unemployment is a problem - but hardly worse than in much of the EU, while Sweden's welfare system is the envy of the world. Abroad, Persson wasn't hampered by two unpopular wars with no end in sight. So why?
...Sweden shows "the economy, stupid" is no longer enough to win. That is alarming to Gordon Brown whose claim to the top job is Britain's unaccustomed economic strength. The warning from Sweden is that when things feel so good, voters feel they can take a punt on a fresh new party. "Time for change" is always a potential winner: a natural democratic urge tugs voters towards throwing the bastards out after a while.
...Persson forgot his wise maxim: in opposition the left must behave like a government, and in government it must act like an insurgent opposition.
3. Andrew Brown, also of the Guardian, disagrees - he doesn't think the British government can learn from Swedish politics; there are too few similarities between them: Knowing left from right in Sweden
There are some big changes under way in Swedish society that we ought to know about, but they have nothing much to do with the outcome of this election. Big changes very seldom do follow elections there, because the governing classes in Sweden tend towards agreement about the direction of policy, even if they disagree about who should carry it out.
I spent six weeks travelling around Sweden this summer, talking to small, boring, unimportant people whose perspective on the election was rather different to Polly Toynbee's. If there has been a swing to the right, it is a deep slow one, which really reflects assumptions about human nature. No one cares about equality or solidarity nearly as much as they did in the seventies. The Social Democrats are now seen as at least as upper class and potentially corrupt as their opponents.
4. Mats Engström, editorial writer at the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, posts at Open Democracy on why We still love the Swedish model
So have Swedish voters indeed rejected their famous model? My answer is no, on two grounds. First, there is the tightness of the vote: the "red-green" side (the Social Democrats and its allies) received 46.2% of the vote against the four-party Alliance for Sweden's 48.1%. The close result will be reflected in the balance of power in the new Riksdag (parliament), where the left bloc will have 171 seats to the right's 178.
Second, there is the changing profile of the opposition itself. In its earlier incarnation, the Moderaterna was seen by many voters as a rightwing party which threatened public welfare. In order to win, the party has had to rebrand itself, embrace the welfare state - the essence of the "model" - and try to look more like the model's principal defenders, the Social Democrats.
In the previous election in 2002, Reinfeldt's predecessor Bo Lundgren had proposed radical tax cuts. The Social Democrats labelled the plan a "system change" and won a comfortable victory. Göran Persson, prime minister since 1996, continued to lead a minority government, supported in parliament by the Miljöpartiet de Gröna (Green Party) and the ex-communist Vänsterpartiet (Left Party).
Reinfeldt and his team learned a painful lesson from a defeat that had brought his party close to the abyss. They unofficially but insistedly added the prefix nya (new) to the party's title at every opportunity; and their explicit debt to Tony Blair's example in Britain extended even to frequent usage of the label "New Labour Party" in parallel with Nya Moderaterna. The echoes continued in Reinfeldt's post-election victory speech, which replicated Blair's own 1997 declaration almost exactly: "We campaigned as the New Moderates, we won as the New Moderates, and together with our alliance partners we will rule Sweden as the New Moderates".
But the rebranding was, to a great degree, also a cloning. "Every promise the Social Democrats make on social welfare, we will agree to and improve", Reinfeldt said in one of his campaign speeches. The Nya Moderaterna also focused on the key centre-left issue of jobs, albeit with a centre-right twist. Reinfeldt's tax-cutting emphasis switched from the rich to the low-waged, and his labour-market policy combined attacks on unemployment-benefit levels with increasing the incentives to work. He survived furious attacks by trade unions to emerge with higher credibility than the Social Democrats in fighting unemployment. In Swedish terms, this is indeed a political sensation.
UPDATE: See also the American Prospect article by Ulrik Jørstad Gade, Centered Right: How Scandanavia's neoliberal parties came to love the welfare state (hat tip: Mark Thoma)