Monday, September 18, 2006

New Beginning for Sweden

I had a very late evening - I left the celebrations with Fredrik Reinfeldt at nearly 3 a m.

And now it's an early morning - off to the TV studios again to try to comment on what's happening.

The Swedish election gave the result that was in the air during the last few weeks. A rather resounding victory for the centre-right alliance, which will now give Sweden its first majority government since 1981.

The Moderate Party under Fredrik Reinfeldt not only did its best election since 1928, but also the best election result of any non-socialist party in modern times, narrowly beating the record set by the Centre party in the 1973 election.

And for the Social Democrats it was their worst election result since 1914 - before the introduction of universal suffrage in Sweden.

Prime Minister Persson immediately announced that he will step down also as leader of the party at an extraordinary congress likely in the beginning of next year. He looked positively happy as he made the announcement.

While previous non-socialist governments that took over in 1976 and in 1991 did so under rather difficult economic circumstances - in 1991 Sweden was losing 1 000 jobs a day and the government deficit was increasing by a billion crowns a week - the situation now is very different.

This is an immediate advantage, but also harbours the risk that the pressure for change will be less than it perhaps ought to be. As numerous international studies have pointed out, there is a need for deep structural reforms in important part of the economy of the country.

But further comments on this will have to await further developmnents.

Today Prime Minister Persson hands in his resignation, although he will be asked to remain in a caretaker position. As the new Riksdag convenes on October 3rd, the formal process of forming the new government will begin, with the actual transfer of power likely to happen on Friday October 6th.

That will be the true new beginning for Sweden.