Persson to resign, new alliance to form government

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Monday September 18, 2006

Stockholm- Political activity in Sweden was Monday focused on the fallout after the ruling minority Social Democrats were voted out of office Sunday, and replaced by a four-party centre-right coalition. Election winner Fredrik Reinfeldt of the conservative Moderate Party left his house Monday morning in the Stockholm suburb Taby without speaking to reporters, but had a big smile on his face.

Prime Minister Goran Persson, who conceded defeat Sunday, was also yet to hand in his resignation to speaker Bjorn von Sydow and lead a caretaker government.

The speaker would then consult with other party leaders. Reinfeldt has secured the backing of the other three other non-socialist parties in the Alliance for Sweden coalition, and would formally begin the process to form a new government.

Reinfeldt has until October 6 to present a government which has a majority of 178 in the 349-seat parliament, according to preliminary tallies from the Election Authority.

A final election result was due Wednesday.

The Moderate Party scored its best result since 1928 with 26.1 per cent, and was as big as the other three non-socialist parties - the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats - combined. The alliance scored 48.1 per cent.

"The main issue was the change the government," Reinfeldt said late Sunday, noting that it was the first majority government in 25 years.

Reinfeldt and his alliance partners said they had not agreed on cabinet posts prior to the elections, other than that Reinfeldt would be prime minister.

Maria Larsson, deputy leader of the Christian Democrats, said Monday the "party leaders would discuss a suitable composition."

The Swedish currency gained Monday against the US dollar and the euro on the news of a new government.

Persson announced his resignation Sunday after his party's weakest showing, 35,2 per cent, since World War I.

Despite a favourable economy, the Social Democrats lost votes, suggesting that the electorate was weary of the party's rule, observers said. The party also lost votes to the Moderate Party.

Political science professor Tommy Moller said that the alliance had robbed the Social Democrats of their traditional argument that the opposition was divided.

Perssson said that an extra party conference in March 2007 was to elect a new leader of the Social Democrats.

Just like the Moderate Party, which scored only 15 per cent in the 2002 elections, the Social Democrats would have to analyze their defeat and search for a new leader.

Among names mentioned to succeed Persson were Finance Minister Par Nuder, Foreign Aid Minister Carin Jamtin, Justice Minister Thomas Bodstrom, and European Commissioner Margot Wallstrom.

Support for the Left Party also fell, while the Green Party increased slightly and the red-green bloc garnered 46.2 per cent.

In addition to national elections, voters elected 20 county council assemblies and 290 municipal assemblies where the alliance also made gains.

The Moderate Party made big gains in several cities and with the other alliance parties won back power in the capital, Stockholm. The Social Democrats retained power in the west-coast city Gothenburg and Malmo in the south.

The right-wing extremist Sweden Democrats did not clear the 4- percent hurdle to parliament but increased their representation in local councils, mainly in southern Sweden, and some county councils.

Local advisory referenda were also held in 22 municipalities. Voters in Stockholm and a dozen neighbouring municipalities voted on congestion charges to be decided by parliament.

A majority, 51.7 per cent, of Stockholmers voted for the fees, while a majority in the neighbouring municipalities voted against.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur