Swedish Election Campaign Ends, Ruling Social Democrats in Lead

September 15, 2002
STOCKHOLM -- Sweden's general election campaign wound down on Saturday as polls published just one day before the vote predicted reelection for Prime Minister Goeran Persson's Social Democrats, AFP reported.

Four public opinion polls published on Saturday all showed the minority Social Democrats and their left-wing allies, the Left Party and the Greens, holding a slim majority over the center-right opposition coalition.

The polls said the left-wing bloc would garner between 50.9 and 51.8 percent of the vote while the center-right was credited with between 46.1 and 47.5 percent, following a campaign dominated by concerns over the integration of immigrants and deteriorating health care and education.

The Social Democrats, who have governed Sweden for 47 of the past 58 years, scored around 37 percent in the four surveys and look set to remain the largest party in the country despite an 80-year low in support.

While polls gave the left-wing a majority, the constellation of the new government will probably not be known immediately on Sunday, as the left bloc is expected to begin thorny negotiations about its internal composition if its parliamentary majority is confirmed.

Persson has insisted upon a continuation of the minority government that has governed since 1998 with the informal support in Parliament of the Greens and the left.

But both the Greens, who have hovered throughout the campaign just above the four-percent level required for representation in Parliament, and the Left Party have said they will no longer support the Social Democrats unless they are given seats in the government.

Persson has been unwilling to meet their demands.

The two are opposed to the euro and the European Union, while Persson is determined, if reelected, to bring Sweden into the euro zone following a referendum to be held some time next year.

The Greens have threatened to bring down any government of which they are not a member. But they have also said they will refuse to cooperate with the conservative moderates and the Christian Democrats, two of the four center-right parties that form the opposition alternative.

With the two blocs so close in the polls, the two camps could be separated by only 100,000 ballot papers from among the 6.7 eligible voters.

Most political observers have predicted the election outcome will be a continuation of the current government and suggested that Persson will have to make concessions to the left and the Greens.