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Swedes head to polls in tight general election

Video by Markus KARLSSON

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-09-19

Sweden votes in a general election on Sunday, with polls narrowly favouring the ruling centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (right) despite challenges from Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin (left) and far-right parties.

REUTERS - Swedes vote on Sunday in elections that the ruling centre right should win narrowly, according to polls, but the far right may enter parliament for the first time and even hold the balance of power.

Most opinion polls in the past few days show the government Alliance of the Moderates, Liberals, Centre and Christian Democrats just scraping a majority, but the margin is so thin that an outright victory is far from certain.

FRANCE 24's Markus Karlsson reports from Stockholm, Sweden

If neither the government nor the opposition coalition gets a majority and the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats pass the 4 percent hurdle for entering parliament—which polls suggest they will—the far-right party could be left holding the balance of power.

« We want to be clear and say: those who like Sweden will not vote for the Sweden Democrats tomorrow, » a hoarse Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told a campaign rally in a rainy central Stockholm hours before the vote.

« If you want to wake up on Monday with a stable, majority government then it is the Alliance government which is the answer. »

Sweden’s rapid recovery from the global financial crisis has boosted Reinfeldt’s government. If re-elected on Sunday, this would mark the first time a sitting centre-right prime minister had won back-to-back terms in Sweden.

Two opinion polls on the eve of the election showed the government winning a wafer-thin majority. A third showed that although the Alliance would emerge the biggest bloc, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats would hold the balance of power.

A hung parliament would create uncertainty and probably hurt the crown and push up Swedish debt yields, analysts say.

Swedish model

Over four years, Reinfeldt’s majority government has cut income taxes, trimmed benefits and sold off state assets.

Voters must choose between its model of a leaner welfare state with more income tax cuts, and an opposition platform that wants the rich to pay more to fund schools, hospitals and care for the elderly.

The Sweden Democrats want to cut immigration drastically.

Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin, who would become Sweden’s first woman prime minister if the opposition coalition of the Social Democrats, Greens and Left party wins, said it was not too late for the centre left to pull off a victory.

« We can get a Red-Green government on Sunday, » she told a rally in central Stockholm, adding that income tax cuts for the rich had come at the expense of the sick and the unemployed.

« Everyone knows that those who are sick don’t get better if you make them poor as well, » said Sahlin, whose Social Democrats were the architects of Sweden’s welfare model and have ruled the country for much of the last century.

« Is politics really about those of us who have it good ... having 100, 200 or 500 crowns more in our wallets at the expense of others? » she asked.

A SVD/Sifo poll on Saturday gave the Moderates, Liberal, Centre and Christian Democrats 49.9 percent of the vote against 45.3 percent for the opposition coalition. In that poll the Sweden Democrats were just short of the 4 percent needed to get into parliament.

Another survey by DN/Synovate gave the government parties 49.2 percent and the opposition of the Social Democrats, Greens and Left party 42.8 percent. DN/Synovate put support for the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats at 5.9 percent.

That would give the Sweden Democrats 21 seats in the country’s 349-seat assembly.

A third poll, by United Minds, put the Alliance at 46.9 percent, the opposition at 43.9 percent and the Sweden Democrats at 7.2 percent, leaving them holding the balance of power.

« That would be very unfortunate indeed, » Swedish voter Lars-Erik Klockare said. « The main thing is that we get a majority government so that we get a stable government for the next four years. » Both main blocs have ruled out cooperating with the Sweden Democrats.

Date created : 2010-09-18

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