Swedish Ruling Party Wins as Greens Enter Parliament
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats won enough support to maintain their minority government in a national election Sunday that also brought the environmentalist Greens into Parliament for the first time.
After a campaign dominated by environmental issues, the Greens won 20 seats in the 349-seat Swedish Parliament to become the first new legislative party here since 1917.
Their presence is likely to exert further pressure on Socialist Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson’s new government to invoke tough anti-pollution measures.
Sweden has already voted in a national referendum to phase out its network of nuclear power stations by 2010, a network that currently provides roughly half the country’s electricity.
The Greens support came at the expense of the four non-socialist parties, who collectively suffered their worst-ever electoral setback.
Although the Social Democrats remain a parliamentary minority with 158 seats, the results enable them to continue their reign over Swedish national politics, which has extended over 50 of the past 56 years and seen the creation of one of the most comprehensive, successful welfare states anywhere.
The party governs in an informal coalition with the small Communist Party, which won 21 seats.
“With the outcome of this election, Sweden can be firmly and effectively ruled,” Carlsson said. He also reaffirmed his earlier position that Sweden would not seek membership in the European Communities.
His Economic Platform
Carlsson campaigned on a platform of further extending the benefits of Sweden’s extensive welfare state while reducing personal income taxes through tighter controls on government spending.
Although plagued by a series of recent scandals, the Social Democrats were aided by a buoyant economy and a 1.5% unemployment rate, one of Sweden’s lowest in recent memory.
The non-socialist parties had urged tax cuts and greater individual choice in social affairs but did not challenge the basic pillars of the welfare state.
Sunday’s election followed a markedly subdued campaign. A voter turnout of 86%, although high by international standards, was the lowest in several Swedish elections.
Apparently fearful of voter backlash, non-socialist leaders ignored recent government scandals, including one that resulted in Watergate-style televised parliamentary hearings last spring on the activities of then-Justice Minister Anna-Greta Leijon and her decision to launch a secret, privately-funded investigation into the assassination of Carlsson’s predecessor as prime minister, Olof Palme, in February, 1986.
A fruitless 2 1/2-year-long official police inquiry into Palme’s unsolved murder has been beset by blunders from the outset and is widely seen as a national embarrassment.
Carlsson initially defended his minister for her desire to resolve the Palme case, but he eventually was forced to fire her and admit she had erred.
Submarine Issue Sidestepped
An issue with important foreign policy implications was by-passed during the monthlong campaign.
Signs of renewed submarine activity off Sweden’s west coast and Swedish naval efforts to locate and destroy the apparent intruders revived national security concerns. But non-socialist leaders did not make security a major election issue, apparently to avoid being accused of bringing Sweden’s time-honored policy of neutrality into question.