In a major victory for the conservative movement, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was re-elected to a second term tonight. This is the first time in the nation’s history that a non-socialist government has been re-elected to a second term. The right wing coalition won 49.3 percent while the socialists received 43.7 percent. This results in 172 seats for the ruling coalition and 157 seats for the socialists in the 349-seat parliament.
The Prime Minister has just met with King Carl Gustaf and Crown Princess Victoria and has been asked to form a new government. The conservatives took office in 2006 by inflicting the worst defeat in 80 years on the socialists. Reinfeldt, 45, leads the ruling four party bloc and is best known for his tax cutting and deficit reduction measures. During his re-election campaign he promised additional income tax reductions, a balanced budget and elimination of the deficit. His plans also include selling the government’s ownership of the biggest bank, the telecom system and the state owned airline SAS.
The global financial crisis which struck in September of 2008 has had a major impact in Europe, but Sweden has quickly restored its economic growth. The Swedish economy will expand 4.5 percent this year, which is by far the best performance among the 27 nations in the European Union. Sweden still has a deficit but it is the EU’s smallest.
The Prime Minister lowered payroll taxes, cut the corporate tax rate, and abolished the wealth tax. He also reduced welfare benefits and the result was more people into the workforce. Employment has risen by 133,000. At one point unemployment reached 9.8% but it has now been reduced to 7.4%.
The liberal opposition Social Democrats have ruled Sweden for 61 of the last 74 years. During this campaign they advocated bringing back the wealth tax, as well as significant increases in income, payroll and gasoline taxes. They said this was necessary to finance more generous welfare, unemployment and health benefits. The leader of the social democrats said “Don’t vote away Sweden’s welfare state. What we sell and tear down now will never come back.”
The government lost is majority in parliament because the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats will enter parliament for the first time. They received 5.7 percent of the vote which gives them 20 seats.