The much vaunted 'Swedish model' is set for a major overhaul, with a four part centre-right alliance defating the Social Democrats in Sunday's election. Reuters's report Center-right alliance wins power in Sweden
A Center-right alliance led by Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt won power in Sweden in an election on Sunday, ending 12 years of Social Democrat rule by vowing to lower taxes and trim the welfare state.
Reinfeldt, who will be the next prime minister, declared victory in a tight election. Social Democrat Prime Minister Goran Persson, one of Europe's longest-serving leaders, conceded defeat after 10 years in office and will quit as party chief.
According to almost complete results from Sweden's Election Commission, the four-party opposition bloc had won 48.0 percent of votes to 46.2 percent for Persson and his allies.
Taking the stage with his arms raised, a jubilant Reinfeldt told supporters: "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."
The result was a victory for the alliance's pledges to stimulate job growth by fine-tuning, but not dismantling, the welfare system. Persson, whose party has ruled Sweden for six of the last seven decades, had vowed to continue government largesse and keep one of the world's heaviest tax burdens.
Despite Sweden's strong economic performance under the Social Democrats, opinion polls had shown many favored change in the Scandinavian country of just over 9 million people due to voter fatigue with Persson and a perceived lack of new ideas.
...The Moderate Party was crushed at the last election in 2002 but 41-year-old Reinfeldt enhanced his party's appeal by shifting it toward the center and paring down earlier tax and benefit cut promises.
He leads an alliance with the Folk Liberals, Christian Democrats and Center Party that says years of excessive benefits and high taxes have eroded Swedes' will to work. Reinfeldt also said the real unemployment rate was about 20 percent, almost four times the official level. Reinfeldt says changes are necessary now to preserve the welfare system for the future, a theme of reform across Europe.
Press reports are describing it as a shock - but to those who have been talking to Swedish friends, it was no surprise. The Moderate Party have engaged in a similar rebadging of their image to the overhaul the British Tories have undergone under David Cameron. They are no longer scare Swedes in the way they once did. Bloomberg's election report by Jonas Bergman adds:
Reinfeldt toned down the Moderate Party's previous tax- cutting message, which brought it only 15 percent support at the last election in 2002, and emphasized that the alliance would not cut spending on education and health care.
The alliance has promised income and corporate tax cuts of about 60 billion kronor ($8.2 billion), partly financed by reductions in unemployment and sickness benefits, arguing that Sweden needs to stimulate hiring and wean people off welfare.
"They have done almost everything right,'' said Anders Sannerstedt, a professor of political science at Lund University. "They changed their profile, Reinfeldt has transformed the Moderates and they have acted almost as one.