Sweden votes tomorrow, with the polls still neck and neck after a hard fought campaign. 18% of voters remain undecided and the expected level of turnout – of crucial importance to the left – is very unclear.
Tomorrow will see traditional voting day campaigning – handing out the ballot papers that voters place inside their unique ballot envelope in the booth, with everyone on tenterhooks. It didn’t have to be this way, but the poor campaign of the left, and the much more effective campaign from the right has led to a situation where one of the most successful governments in the world risks losing power.
Firstly, the Swedish right has run an excellent campaign. They have tacked to the centre so aggressively, the International Herald Tribune jokingly said “The conservative/liberal opposition this time has decided it can’t overthrow Swedish socialism – it can just say it will make it run better”. They have picked some superb policies to push (maternity leave, tax breaks for the poor), and have maintained real discipline between the four pretty divergent members of the coalition.
Secondly, the left ran a poor campaign. Instead of continuing to attack the problems in society and saying “lots done, lots left to do”, the Social Democrats allowed themselves to get into a row over how high Swedish unemployment is. Like getting into a debate with the police over how many hard drugs its okay to take, this debate has not been massively helpful. Another factor in the poor campaign has been the Swedish PM Goran Persson. Persson is in a similar position to Blair in 2005 – he is unpopular, untrusted and unliked. However, unlike 2005, the social democrats do not have a Gordon Brown to rescue them.
While the right has successfully sold itself as a new labour party (literally- “nya arbetarpartiet”), with talk of increasing equality, helping the elderly and getting people into work, it is actually a classic neo-liberal party – aiming to cut taxes and cut spending on public services, force people to take low paid jobs regardless of their health, and to scrap an enviromental policy aimed at making Sweden break its oil dependency.
As Neil Kinnock may well say: “If Fredrik Reinfeldt wins on tomorrow – I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, I warn you not to get old.”
It’s all down to the 18% undecided. If they vote, we will win. If they stay on the sofa, Sweden will be in for a rough ride.
The Daily has a reporter stationed in a pub in Stockholm with a mobile to phone early exit polls in tomorrow – first rough estimated results posted around 7.30 UK time.