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Elections In Sweden: World’s Happiest People?

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STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – Way up here in the northern latitudes you’ll discover some people who ought to be the world’s happiest. They have more of everything: more holidays, more wall-to-wall welfare and more Volvos, relatively speaking, than almost anybody else. They even tend to live longer than anybody except the Japanese.

We’re talking about Swedes, nine million of them, dispersed in a California-sized country of lakes and vast forests where a few wolves still roam. Not for nothing has the Financial Times labeled Sweden as one of the world’s most successful societies because of its potent mixture of welfare and high economic growth. A steady stream of analysts from Europe and developing countries treks to Stockholm to figure out how it all works.

But… something strange happened over the weekend. Even as economic growth sizzled at 5.5% – highest in the developed world – voters yesterday booted out the long-reigning Social Democrats who largely made the Swedish model possible. Twelve years of unbroken rule ended close to midnight on Sunday when a right-of-center coalition led by Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of Moderate Unity, took 48.1% of the vote, narrowly defeating the Social Democrats and their allies, who got 46.2%. Except for brief intervals, the Social Democrats and left-wing allies have ruled the roost since 1932.

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Prime Minister-elect Reinfeldt pulled it off by repackaging his conservative party – describing them as “New Moderates”, aping New Labor in Britain. He lost no time shifting to the center of politics by pledging to uphold the welfare state. Then, he proclaimed unemployment as the No. 1 issue, thus usurping the traditional stamping grounds of the working class-based Social Democrats. The official jobless figure is 6.1%, down from around 8% two years ago and slowly declining – too slowly.

“People who never had thought of voting for us have given us their vote,” said 41-year-old Reinfeldt in a victory speech to party workers and the nation. “We won because the Swedish people chose to stop turning a blind eye to, for example, unemployment.” The outgoing prime minister, bitter in defeat, swung back. Göran Persson said his party scored actual electoral gains in regions of high unemployment.

Persson, 57, told stunned supporters he will resign as leader of the Social Democrats to let somebody younger step forward. He didn’t say who. “I fully understand that if you lose an election at age 57 and after 10 years as prime minister, it won’t be me who’ll spearhead the comeback.” Son of working class parents, Persson entered politics at age 15. Named as finance minister in 1994 and prime minister two years later, he hauled Sweden from depression, bank crashes and soaring indebtedness into a more serene sphere of trade surpluses and thriving global businesses. Even opponents concede that he did it all deftly.

Stayed too long?

Some pundits suggest the voters perhaps got bored with Persson and wanted to see fresh faces.

Perhaps. But nearly 35% of the electorate could only make up their minds on Election Day or even behind the polling booth – suggesting something else. Politics, it seems, had become blurred. The “new” Moderates and their coalition grabbed so much territory in the central arena that it was difficult to determine distinctions between the parties.

Even so, Reinfeldt’s focus on unemployment did strike a nerve. Like people everywhere, Swedes fear unemployment like the plague. In wake of accelerating mechanization and globalization, very few jobs are permanently secure. He has promised more jobs by encouraging tax breaks for companies, among other things, in order to stimulate new hiring, particularly of young people. He would also like to enable tax cuts for wage earners and eventual abolition of property tax while offering new perks like subsidized housecleaning. Swedish schoolchildren, meantime, will be graded much earlier, while state hospitals may also host private clinics on their premises.

Not all voters read the fine print. Reinfeldt and his coalition want a sharp cut in state unemployment benefits after the first 180 days to help pay for income tax breaks. Union membership would no longer be tax deductible in New Sweden – a potential blow to the labor movement. Social Democrats maintain that unemployment insurance cutbacks could force people into accepting low wage jobs. Damaging the finances of organized labor could have the same effect.

Reinfeldt has a four-year mandate and wants to remain in power after that; some programs may be soft peddled. But in a nation with the lowest income gaps in Europe, Sweden may become somewhat less than equal during his stewardship. In addition, the gains that Sweden has made through globalization may well be offset by a shift in the balance of power against workers and in favor of companies.

Sweden, in other words, may become more like the rest of Europe.

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About Rog

  • It is an excellent piece of report but no point in complementing a journalist who has a known record of informative and interesting coverage! This piece, however, gave us a peek into a world which seems so comfortable, so noiseless, so perfect that it is simply not noticed; particularly when there is so much turmoil in other parts of the globe. Mr Choate, thank you very much and we hope we will see more of your reporting into the affairs of Sweden.

  • Roger Choate

    Thank yoú so very much for kind comments, Mayank. I might say the same thing about your intriguing offerings on this website

  • Nancy

    It may be that in addition to fears of rising unemployment, Swedes are also getting tired of immigrants both legal & illegal from cultures & countries antithetical to their own, who leach off the public & then make outrageous demands for cultural or legal change or special privileges, and/or perpetrate outrageous crimes against natives.

  • Nancy

    It may be that in addition to fears of rising unemployment, Swedes are also getting tired of immigrants both legal & illegal from cultures & countries antithetical to their own, who leach off the public & then make outrageous demands for cultural or legal change or special privileges, and/or perpetrate outrageous crimes against natives, refusing to honor or adhere to Swedish law.

  • Roger Choate

    Immigation was not a major issue in the Swedish electoral campaign except in the southern part of the country near Denmark – a region that has always had a certain racist streak in its makeup.

    All political parties are aware that more immigrants will be needed and wanted in the next couple of years if economic growth is to be sustained. For the most part, they will come from East European countries joining the European Union

  • From
    Sweden Begins to Change

    “The Swedish nationalists (Swedish Democrats, or SD) finally had some good results and probably more than doubled the amount of voters. In one town called Landskrona in southern Sweden the party almost became the second largest party, with 22%. The results in the southernmost parts of Sweden were well beyond what is needed to get into parliament, but the results are not the same everywhere. The result for SD for the whole of the country is not yet published except as in the group “others” which was 5.7% and SD will probably get a bit less then half of those votes, landing over 2.5% which is needed to get government funding for a political party. This will give them a substantial amount of money, which will help SD get over the magical 4% barrier to take them into the Riksdagen (parliament) in the next election.”

    It’s like in the United States. The stranglehold which the major establishment parties have over the electoral process will only be overcome gradually, as more and more of the populace become fed up with the insanity of allowing millions of disloyal thridworlders to move in and drive out the native citizens, raping their daughters in the process and rendering the local police impotent to prevent crime – as has happened most tragically in the major Swedish city of

  • Roger Choate

    The Swedish Democrats are an anti-immigrant grouping in Sweden who have a strong base in southernmost Sweden fringing Denmark. They have not received enough votes – 4r% required – to enter Parliament. Mr. Brodie’s comments reflect the racial views of this party perfectly.

  • Nancy

    Mr. Brodie seems to have a fixation about wogs raping white women. Otherwise, I agree that I doubt most Swedes had in mind getting immigrants from the mideast who are illiterate militant or fundamentalist muslims, who have little or no modern salable skills and are nothing but a drain on the resources of the country as well as being demanding & rude when it comes to respecting Sweden’s laws & customs, while demanding respect for their own. I suspect most Swedes were hoping a healthy contingent of Swiss or native Germans were the ones who would move in.

  • Roger Choate

    Letter writer Richard Brodie (#6) has thoughtfully provided us all with his URL. It is the website of a racist outfit in Sacramento California called National Vanguard, promoting the “superiority” of the “white race.”

    The site says that if you want to join their group, you should be aware that “Persons of Jewish descent, homosexuals or bisexuals, criminals, persons with a non-White spouse, dependent, or sexual partner, or persons with more than an undetectable trace of non-White ancestry are specifically barred from membership.”

  • National Vanguard also supports the superiority of other races in various respects. It is a white separatist not a white supremacist organization, which above all extends respect towards the right of all races to be able to continue existing, and not be wiped off the face of the earth, either through genocide or miscegenation.

    “Racism”, the mere mention of which is thought, by slavish devotees of political correctness, to be sufficient to discredit someone else’s argument or viewpoint, is a morally neutral word. It has been linguistically polluted by the likes of Mr. Choate so as to be put into service for the furtherance of their disatrous, reality-ignoring multiculturalist agenda, an agenda which has demonstrably resulted in racial tensions, conflict, and atrocities that can only be expected to worsen as time goes on.

    But to get back to the topic at hand, rape is connected to Islamic notions of the role of women in society. An Islamic Mufti in Copenhagen declared that women who refuse to wear headscarves are “asking for rape.”

    The Islamic veil thus serves as a demarcation line between proper, submissive Muslim women and whores, un-Islamic women who deserve no respect and are asking for rape. Modern Europen women now been reduced the the choice of either risking being raped in their own countries, or wearing a veil.

    In Holland, you can now see examples of young, unveiled Moroccan women with a so-called “smiley”. It means that the girl gets one side of her face cut up from mouth to ear, serving as a warning to other Muslim girls who might refuse to wear the veil. In the Muslim suburb of Courneuve, France, women carry veils because of fear of being harassed or molested by Islamic moral patrols.

  • Arch Conservative

    I wonder how long before there’s a story coming out of Sweden about young muslims disturbing the peace and causing violence.

  • Ruvy

    For what it is worth, the Sweden Democrats got enough to get 20 seats in the lower house of Sweden’s parliament a couple of days ago. I suggest that the behavior of Muslim criminals in Sweden – raping women, etc., – and the refusal of the media there to cover it – has been the cause for the rise in the SD’s vote. The government is doing its best to snub the SD. We’ll see what happens when the allies who are joining in place start twisting their knife of demands.

  • Roger Choate

    Please note that I wrote the above article four years ago