Alliance touts strong economy in election bid

From speeches to press conferences, Sweden's ruling centre-right coalition has tirelessly pumped forth the country's sound economic performance in its re-election bid ahead of Sunday's election, writes AFP's Marc Preel.

Alliance touts strong economy in election bid

“This is a very interesting position to have in an election campaign,” Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told the foreign press last week.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Anders Borg said “the sun was shining” on the Scandinavian country’s economy when discussing “elections and the Swedish economy” with reporters.

A year ago, the Swedish economy was undergoing a deep recession and Borg, alluding to Swedish weather, had warned a “long and hard winter” lay ahead. The government at the time forecast an unemployment rate of up to 12 percent in the short term with no clear rebound in 2010.

The industry sector was depressed, the future of Swedish automotive icons Volvo and especially Saab was in danger and the government was under fire by the opposition for its inaction and budgetary caution.

Then, in the span of just a few months, a recovery in exports, a low krona and a return of household consumption and spending suddenly helped turn the situation around.

Today, both Volvo and Saab have been sold, the Swedish economy is among the top performers in Europe, unemployment, which never climbed above 10 percent, is down to 8 percent and Sweden just surpassed the United States in terms of competitiveness.

Recently, revised figures show economic growth reached 4.6 percent in the second quarter.

“Ahead of the election, the [governing] alliance can obviously be satisfied with those numbers,” Gunnar Jonsson wrote in an editorial in daily Dagens Nyheter. “And inversely, the health of the economy is a problem for [the left-wing opposition]: it is just not possible that the government has done everything wrong, as the opposition has been hammering on about for four years.”

Opinion polls show voters shunned the governing alliance at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, when the economic crisis was at its peak.

But support for the government sharply picked up along with the economy’s performance, sending Reinfeldt’s alliance past Mona Sahlin’s opposition bloc, made up of her Social Democrats along with the Green and Left parties.

The secret to Sweden’s success? It was able to use what had been stored away in state coffers during better years, according to the government.

“Contrary to other economies that had deficits, we had a surplus and we could use it for financial stimulus packages…both on infrastructure investments and tax cuts,” Reinfeldt said.

When most European countries adopted austerity measures, Sweden was able to keep spending to support its economy, Borg said. Reinfeldt said “stimuli to the Swedish economy have worked very well.”

However, the Social Democrats’ economic spokesperson Thomas Östros, who would become finance minister if the opposition won, said the government, which came to power in 2006 promising to bring down the then six-percent unemployment

rate, has neglected job creation.

“Failure must be called failure and the right-wing government clearly failed when it comes to jobs,” he wrote in an open letter to Dagens Nyheter, criticising tax cuts in the presence of a deficit. “We have to stop with these tax cuts financed with borrowed money.”

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Opposition hits back at Swedish PM: ‘Alliance is still the biggest’

The leader of Sweden’s centre-right Moderate party pledged once again to oust the country’s prime minister Stefan Löfven after the final result of last week's election was confirmed on Sunday.

Opposition hits back at Swedish PM: 'Alliance is still the biggest'
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson during an election debate on Sweden's state broadcaster SVT. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
“If Stefan Löfven and the government do not resign voluntarily we are going to vote for them to be unseated once the parliament returns,” Ulf Kristersson said in a written comment sent to the TT newswire. 
He questioned Löfven’s claim to lead the bloc with the “greatest support in parliament”. 
“The final result if now complete, and the Alliance continues to be the biggest potential government, significantly larger than the current government,” he said. “If Stefan Löfven wants to try and build a government out of his ‘bloc’, together with the Left Party and the Green Party, he should say it in black and white.” 
The final vote count left the allocation of seats unchanged, with 144 seats shared by the Social Democrats, Green Party and Left Party, 143 going to the four centre-right Alliance parties, and 62 seats to the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. 
This means both sides are well short of the 175 seats needed to have a majority. 
Löfven was the first to comment once the final tally was announced, arguing that as the largest party leading the largest parliamentary grouping, the Social Democrats should lead Sweden's next government. 
“The final election result shows that we Social Democrats are clearly the largest party and have the biggest support for a government if the right-wing parties do not break their promise and create a common bloc with the Sweden Democrats,” he said. 
There was, he reiterated, only one “constructive solution for the good of the country: to break with bloc politics”.
“Now all upstanding parties must take their responsibility to push Sweden forward,” he said. “In this process, no one is going to manage to achieve their party's policy program in its entirety. But through cooperation we can do so much more for our country.” 
While the four centre-right parties ruled Sweden as a tightly coordinated bloc between 2006 and 2014, the Social Democrats have never entered into coalition with the Left Party, and have only gone into coalition with the Green Party once, from 2014-2018.
Aron Etzler, the party secretary for the Left Party on Sunday said his party would be willing to take part in a Social Democrat-led government. 
“We are open to taking part in a government and for negotiating over the budget,” he told the Aftonbladet newspaper. “Without the success of the Left Party, Stefan Löfven would be in no position to make a claim to be prime minister.” 
Kristersson has been pushing Löfven to resign as prime minister since the night of the election last Sunday. 
On Wednesday, the four Alliance parties invited the Social Democrats to join them in talks over a deal across the political centre.
The aim was form a government which did not require the support of the Sweden Democrats, a party which the leaders of Sweden’s other political parties has said they will not negotiate or do deals with . 
“The Alliance is offering the Social Democrats the possibility of playing a new, constructive role,” Centre Party leader Annie Lööf told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper after the Alliance leaders’ joint article was published. 
Löfven immediately rebuffed the office. 
“The Social Democrats are being offered the chance of being a support party for the right-wing bloc,” he said. “That is a thought that should be completely dismissed.” 
Sweden's parliament is set to open on September 25th.