Sweden reacts to Bush victory: Jaaaaaaaa…

It was easy to spot the Swedish politicians who actually have to work with the American government. Those were the ones who managed to be almost lukewarm about George W Bush's election success earlier this week. Even the traditionally Republican-friendly Moderates struggled to get excited at four more years of 'Dubya'.

Prime minister, Göran Persson, conceded the re-elected president was a “skilful and experienced politician who knows what he wants.” He also added that he was good at getting his message across to Americans: “after all, that’s where he’s elected.”

DN sensed an admiring tone in Persson’s comments, speaking as the leader of one country’s ‘natural party of government’ about the leader of another – particularly with thoughts in Sweden turning towards the 2006 election.

Still, the socialist in Persson couldn’t quite bring himself to give Bush a ringing endorsement:

“If I’d been sitting at our party headquarters, I would naturally have expressed a certain amount of sorrow, since our partners, the Democrats, didn’t win. But now I’m sitting at Rosenbad as the prime minister and we have to work with the American administration. It isn’t my job to evaluate the American election result.”

Foreign minister, Laila Freivalds, was supportive in an underwhelming sort of way. One positive result of a Bush victory was that there wouldn’t be a three month hand over with a lame duck president, she said.

“Now I hope we can actively tackle the middle east question,” she added.

The Social Democrats’ party secretary, Marita Ulvskog, fairly safe in the knowledge that she’s unlikely to meet any Republicans in the near future, had no qualms about putting her cards on the table:

“Four years of Kerry would have been much better.”

Moderate leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt, struggled to find many positives in the result, with a fairly bland assessment of the result:

“It’s usually said that countries at war re-elect their leader. I see it as the Americans re-electing their commander in chief,” he said before adding that he was glad he didn’t have to vote in the election.

The Greens and Left Party were predictably inconsolable.

“Bush’s victory is a tragedy for the whole world,” said the Greens’ Peter Eriksson.

“A day of sorrow,” said the Left Party’s Lars Ohly.

The Christian Democrats’ Göran Hägglund expressed concern about Bush’s commitment to the environment.

The Swedish press acknowledged that Bush had won a convincing victory and that his hand was strengthened for his second mandate period. He had successfully delivered his message and mobilised his vote.

The main concern is the United States’ future relations with Europe.

“Bush has a narrow agenda, which he drives home hard,” said DN. “The president is a politician who knows what he wants and how to achieve his goals.”

“Of course, the USA can feel constrained to reach out its hand [to Europe], and of course a Europe in great need of better relations with the only superpower can take it. But it’s a long uphill struggle.”

“The election is a major success for Bush,” said GP. “It’s been a vote of confidence for him, rather than a battle against a strong opponent. For many voters, the priority wasn’t to vote for Kerry, but to get rid of Bush.”

GP continued: “[Kerry] lacked charisma and didn’t have an issue to engage the voters, despite Bush’s failures.

The paper concluded: “The big problem for Bush is how he can unite the nation… And how he can re-establish a good relationship with Europe. Assuming he has an interest in doing so…”

Expressen felt that three factors had contributed to Bush’s victory: his ability to mobilise the religious vote; his success in making the Republican Party attractive to ethnic minorities; and his success in convincing voters that he’s the man to lead the country in the war against terror.

“Europeans should swallow their pride and try to be a constructive partner for an America, which despite all its faults, is an indispensible guarantee for freedom in the world,” it proclaimed.

Most of the handwringing came from Aftonbladet. “I feel I can hear it coming all the way over the Atlantic,” intoned their correspondent. “The world’s sigh of disappointment and frustration… Count on four more years of going it alone and arrogance… Bush sees his life’s work as re-shaping the world according to what suits America’s interests. He won’t be resting on his laurels.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Göteborgs Posten