Far-right local results take shine off Persson's win


SWEDEN: It was a scene reminiscent of the Swedish football team's group victory during the World Cup. A jubilant Mr Göran Persson, comfortable in the knowledge that he would rule for another four years following Sunday's election vistory, greeted his supporters. A huge crowd chanting "Göran, Göran" led the celebrations at the Social Democrats' headquarters in Stockholm. Mr Persson in turn applauded voters for changing the right-wing trend in Europe.

The Social Democrats increased their share of the vote to 39.9 per cent, up 3.4 per cent from the last election. Their allies in government, the Greens and the left-wing parties, received 4.5 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively. In total the socialist bloc received 191 seats. But the Green party is now demanding ministerial posts, and negotiations will continue throughout this week to resolve those demands. Mr Persson still needs one seat from the Greens and seems likely to get it as they have almost nowhere else to pledge their support.

However, in the local elections held on the same day extreme right-wing parties significantly increased their support. These extremist anti-immigrant parties, the Sweden Democrats and the National Democrats, are now a cause for concern. They won 39 seats compared to eight in the last election. Their support base is mainly in the southern provinces of Skåne and Blekinge, and neither party attained the 4 per cent threshold to be represented.

In the main cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö the Social Democrats continue to dominate.

The election highlighted the disillusion that marginalised groups such as immigrants and low-income groups feel.

Voter turnout was the worst in over 50 years, with only 79 per cent of the electorate showing up at the polls.

The four-party non-socialist alliance captured 43.7 per cent in the general election. The Liberal party had a blistering election, trebling its share of the vote to 13.3 per cent. It rode to the polls on a platform of immigration and integration issues.

The conservative Moderates' promise of lowering taxes suffered a major defeat, winning only 15.1 per cent, down by 7.6 per cent on the last election. The Christian Democrats fared badly with just 9.1 per cent, a loss of over 2.5 per cent from the previous election,. while the rural Centre party increased its share to 6.2 per cent.

Voters went for the middle ground, swinging away from the extreme right and extreme left. Post-election analysts have interpreted the result as a defence of the welfare state.