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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Swedish left bucks European trend
Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson
Persson pledged to make Sweden "more fair and more equal"

The Swedish Prime Minister, Goeran Persson, has led his Social Democratic Party to a clear victory in Sunday's general election.

We broke the trend. Next week our German comrades can follow us

Swedish PM Goeran Persson
He said it was a fantastic success, and he hoped his Social Democratic counterparts in Germany could follow suit in a week's time.

Opinion polls - which had suggested an extremely close race, with the Social Democrats struggling to hang on to power - were wrong.

The main centre-right opposition party, the Moderates, performed badly.

Election results
Social Democrats: 40.4%
Party of the Left: 8.4%
Greens: 4.6%
Moderates: 14.7%
Liberals: 13.3%
"We're going to work hard for four more years to make Sweden more fair and more equal," Mr Persson told a crowd of cheering supporters as he claimed victory.

"And we'll use our voice in the world to fight for international solidarity," he added.

The election proved that Sweden did not want to follow the recent European trend of electing centre-right governments.

Support for welfare system

There is still active support here for the traditional welfare model.

Liberal Party supporters celebrate in the Sergel Square fountain in central Stockholm
The Liberals had most to celebrate on the right

Swedes pay some of the highest taxes in the world, in return for generous social benefits.

One of the main issues in the campaign was that public schools and hospitals are in a bit of a mess, and voters seem to have decided that the best way to sort that out is more government spending.

Big tax cuts have been rejected.

By far the best performance among opposition parties came from the Liberals, who made big gains after putting immigration and the integration of foreigners onto the campaign agenda.

Euro splits

It was not another success for the extreme right in Europe.

The leader of the Moderates Party, Bo Lundgren, beside his election poster
It is time to reflect for the Moderates

The Liberals have a long record of support for immigrants and asylum seekers. The party simply struck a chord by addressing issues which others wanted to avoid.

But overall Sweden has chosen another four years of centre-left government.

The Social Democrats increased their share of the vote, and their allies on the left also performed well.

It means that a referendum on joining the euro will probably be held next year.

The Social Democrats are split on an issue which cuts right across party lines, but the prime minister is strongly in favour.

The betting is that Swedes will vote "yes" to the single currency.

Good omen for Schroeder

So, plenty for Mr Persson to think about in the future, but for the moment he and his supporters are simply happy to celebrate this success.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
The left triumph in Sweden is music to ears for Schroeder

The prime minister was keen to stress the importance of victory for the European centre-left as a whole.

"We broke the trend", he said. "Next week our German comrades can follow us."

Sweden's decision obviously will not have any direct effect on most German voters, but it is not a bad omen for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

It proves that the right are not invincible in Europe at the moment.

See also:

16 Sep 02 | Europe
14 Sep 02 | Europe
10 Aug 01 | Business
16 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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