Election Campaigning Starts in Sweden
Swedish political party leaders are launching their campaigns for the coming elections in September with the first party leader debate in parliament and three major debates in national public service television and radio in the next few days.
Observers say the campaigns will be especially interesting this year - with the four party center-right government coalition hoping to get another four years in office, and with the creation of the historic opposition coalition of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left party.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of the ruling conservative moderate party accuses the opposition of pretending to be united on many issues but really being divided, for presenting unclear proposals calling for long studies delaying any implementation, and for promising big tax increases to cover welfare benefits..
His challenger for the prime minister post, Mona Sahlin, leader of the Social Democratic Party, started her speech by calling for massive Swedish aid for the earthquake victims in Haiti and then denouncing the government for what she calls a failure to tackle rising unemployment in Sweden and for giving too little support to those on the margins of society – a main promise that brought the center-right coalition to power after years of opposition.
Critics maintain that most of the uncommitted and record number of first-time voters are seldom influenced by such earlier confrontations, but that the campaign issues may be determined - such as high unemployment and the opposition's intentions to restore some of the welfare benefits reduced in the last few years.