Sweden is set to go to the polls on September 17, and it is widely touted as the closest election in decades. The ruling centre-left bloc of the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party are neck-to-neck with the “Bourgeois bloc” (they are literally called that!) of the Moderates (Tories), Liberals, Christian Democrats and Centre (farmer) Parties.
The latest poll put the right-wing ahead 50-45, but that’s the biggest lead they have since January.
Following the Social Democrats’ heavy losses in the 2004 European elections, where they were squeezed by traditional left-wing voters (who are mostly anti-euro) deserting the party across the spectrum, the party swung to the left in an attempt to mobilise the base.
Not only has the party refused to enter into a Dutch auction with the right over tax cuts, but they have even suggested they will promise tax raises to pay for welfare expansion – particularly for young mothers and students.
The right’s tactics mirror those of David Cameron’s cuddly new Tories quite closely (although they started being cuddly earlier). Their bottom line narrative is “Sweden is okay, but this lot running it are tired and corrupt. Let us run it, and we won’t do things much different, but we’ll be chirpier on TV than them”.
It has been working for over a year, and includes clever ads like this, but we wonder whether it can really last. Scratch the surface of cuddly Tories and they are often just as nasty underneath as they ever were.
The big campaign issues to watch on either side then are whether the Social Democrats can mobilise their traditional base to come out and vote for them again, or whether the Moderate-led right will succeed in tricking the voters into thinking they have changed. The big policy issues are tax and spend, the future of the welfare state and unemployment. Sound familiar?