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Swedes urged to rally against lower taxes

Swedes urged to rally against lower taxes

Published: 20 Aug 2013 11:15 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Aug 2013 11:15 GMT+02:00

As Sweden's political leaders wrap up their summer speeches and the prime minister's popularity is in flux, the left-leaning tabloid Aftonbladet has asked Swedes to revolt against the government's plans for further tax breaks.

In an editorial published on Tuesday, the paper took issue with Fredrik Reinfeldt's continued focus on tax cuts in his traditional summer speech, at a time when Swedish students appear to be increasingly getting a raw deal in school.

"If Sweden wants to stop plummeting in international (education) comparisons, the money that Reinfeldt wants to waste with new tax reductions should instead go to the schools," argued Aftonbladet, which also took a swipe at the opposition Social Democrats.

"The Social Democrats say they are against the tax cut, but don't want to promise to stop it. That is an incomprehensible strategy. It signals they've given up, and their lack of self confidence."

No stranger to campaign journalism, the cantankerous tabloid has now asked Swedes to sign a protest letter against further tax breaks.

With 13 months left until general elections, the anti-tax break campaign comes at a time when the chances of another victory for Reinfeldt's centre-right coalition are in doubt.

"What has gone wrong?" The Economist magazine asked this week in trying to understand Reinfeldt's declining popularity. "Compared with most of Europe, Sweden has done well. But unemployment is a running sore. It was a big reason for the Social Democrats' defeat in 2006, when the rate stood at only 6 percent and Mr. Reinfeldt promised to boost jobs by cutting income tax and welfare benefits."

Since then, however, once buoyant Sweden faces unemployment above 8 percent, with difficult-to-tackle youth unemployment a constant battleground for warring politicians.

In July, pollsters at Demoskop found only 37.1 percent of the Swedish electorate happy with backing Reinfeldt's government coalition, a four-party construction branded and marketed as the Alliance in 2006. The Green, Left, and Social Democrat opposition, which is neither streamlined nor cohesive but nonetheless has much in common, scraped together 50.4 percent.

Enterprise Minister Annie Lööf lashed out at the opposition's discordant voices during a recent parliamentary debate, tweeting the quizzical "When will they get along?"

But getting along has been a leitmotif for the Alliance, and getting along with anyone in Rosenbad, Sweden's Whitehall, will be difficult if her Centre Party doesn't get the required four percent to get into parliament. A third Alliance partner, the socially conservative Christian Democrats, are also sploshing about sub-four percent in recent opinions polls.

Add Sweden's unemployment woes the recent debacle surround energy giant's Vattenfall's purchase of Nuon.

The Local asked Lööf last week if the Nuon deal, handled in part by proxy by her predecessor Maud Olofsson, risked damaging her party's chances in the upcoming elections. She ducked and took cover.

"No, the voters next year would like to vote on more jobs, more green growth, and policies that will make the whole Sweden grow and that's opinions that my party is in favour of," she said, adding that these are issues her party was working on.

However, the Centre Party is not alone in wanting to tackle these issues. The Alliance must tackle it, and, as The Economist noted, tax-cuts to stimulate spending has not been enough.

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