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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Sweden's centre-left poised for victory
Swedish prime minister Goeran Persson
Goeran Persson is the most popular candidate for PM
Sweden is gearing up for elections on 15 September, which are expected to return the Social Democrats to power, but which could also see the rise of a right-wing anti-immigrant party.

Opinion polls have consistently shown a majority in favour of the current Social Democrat-led government in recent months.

Prime Minister Goeran Persson also remains the most popular choice to head the government.

The main uncertainties are:

  • How many parties the Social Democrats will need to invite to form a coalition
  • Whether the far-right Sverigedemokraterna Party will cross the 4% threshold for representation in parliament

After the 1998 election, the Social Democrats backed by the Party of the Left and the Greens won 190 seats in the 349-seat parliament.

The centre-right Moderate Unity Party, the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party and the Liberals won the rest.

Battle on the right

This year's election will essentially be a contest between the same two blocs.

The Social Democrats may obtain a majority with the support of the Party of the Left, but they may also need the backing of the Environment Party (Greens), as happened after the 1998 election, or even the Centre Party.

The biggest threat to the centre-left appears to be a low turnout.

Of the parties elected in 1998, the one most likely to fall below the 4% threshold is the Environment Party.

The most likely newcomer is the far-right Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats).

While most analysts do not expect them to get into parliament, they may still take valuable votes from the centre-right.

Premiership battle

Goeran Persson has been Swedish prime minister since 1996, when he succeeded Ingvar Carlsson.

He grew in stature during the Swedish presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2001.

He favours Swedish adoption of the euro currency, but has refused to allow this to become an election issue and has promised a referendum if re-elected.

The leader of the centre-right is Bo Lundgren, an economist who was praised for his handling of the Swedish banking crisis in the early 1990s, but lacks charisma.

The following parties are contesting the election:

  • The Social Democrats - The party has been in power since 1994. Formed in 1889, they were also in power, either alone or as part of a coalition, for most of the period from 1932 to 1976, and shaped Sweden's welfare state.
  • The Moderate Unity Party - The party was founded in 1969 as a successor to the Conservative Party, which was founded in 1938. It featured in the first centre-right governments since World War II in 1976-78 and 1979-81, and also led the centre-right's four-party coalition from 1991-94, under the premiership of Carl Bildt. Its leader is Bo Lundgren.
  • The Party of the Left - Formed as Sweden's Communist Party in 1921, it changed its name to the Party of the Left - Communists in 1967 and to the Party of the Left in 1990. It is opposed to the European Union and to Swedish membership of the European Monetary Union. Its leader is Gudrun Schyman.
  • The Christian Democrats - Formed as the Christian Democratic Union in 1964, the party has been represented in the Riksdag since 1991, and was part of the four-party centre-right government from 1991 to 1994. Its leader is Alf Svensson.
  • The Centre Party - Has its roots in two agricultural associations formed at the beginning of the 20th Century and has held parliamentary seats since 1918. It was in coalition with the Social Democrats in the 1950s, but has since participated in the centre-right coalitions which won power in 1976 and 1991. Its leader is Maud Olofsson.
  • The Liberal Party - Formed in 1934, it was part of the centre-right coalition which held power from 1991 to 1994. Its leader is Lars Leijonborg.
  • Environment Party - The Greens - Formed in 1981, the Environment Party entered parliament in 1988, but failed to win enough votes to be represented in 1991. It has had a presence in parliament since 1994 and acted as a support party for the Social Democrats in the outgoing parliament. It is opposed to the European Union and is against Sweden's adoption of the euro. Its spokespersons are Maria Wetterstrand and Peter Eriksson.
  • Sverigedemokraterna and Nationaldemokraterna (National Democrats) are not currently represented in parliament. Both have far-right anti-immigration agendas. Sverigedemokraterna, the larger of the two, is led by Sten Andersson, a former scaffolder and trade union official who left the Moderate Unity Party earlier this year. It polled less than 1% in the last election, but may do better this time. An earlier anti-immigrant party, New Democracy, won 6.7% of the vote in 1991, but disappeared from parliament again in 1994, when it won just 1.2% of the vote.
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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10 Aug 01 | Business
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