On 15 September 2002, Sweden is going to elect a new parliament. The outcome of the close race between the leftist governing bloc and the centre-right opposition could have a determining influence on the euro referendum in Sweden next year.
Until a couple of weeks ago, the opinion polls indicated a clear victory for the Social Democrats who the electorate views as the key to continuing economic growth and dropping unemployment figures.
But the Social Democrats’ comfortable majority has dwindled away over the last few weeks, and the party is now rated at about 36 cent. With the support of the Left Party, it could still obtain a majority, but it may also need the backing of the Greens, for whom it is not altogether clear whether they will cross the 4 per cent barrier required for parliamentary representation.
If they do get into parliament, the Greens this time also demand seats in the government – something that Prime Minister Göran Persson categorically ruled out.
The challenge comes from a centre-right bloc of the Moderate Unity Party led by Bo Lundgren, the Christian Democrats, the Centre Party and the Liberals. While the Moderates have been loosing ground, and are now rated around 20 per cent of the vote, the small Liberal Party has been able to drastically improve its score by addressing issues such as immigration and integration.
Immigration, taxation, employment and education have been the major topics of the campaign. After the Liberals announced they wanted to link Swedish citizenship to the passing of a language test, the Moderates seconded them by proposing a test of the immigrants’ knowledge of the Swedish culture.
While the Social Democrats refused to take up any of these ideas, all parties essentially agree on major demands such as accelerating immigration procedures, better language skills, and work permits for refugees.