Persson woos Greens, Left Party in the cold

The Left Party’s troubles continued to deepen this week. Prime Minister Göran Persson opened the possibility of a formal coalition with the Green Party, but did not make a similar offer to Left Party leader Lars Ohly.

The controversy was prompted when Persson said this week that the loose cooperation between Social Democrats, Greens and the Left Party, which has supported the government for the past six years, had “run out of steam.” He added that the Greens were possible candidates to join the Social Democrats in a formal governing coalition after the next election. There was no similar offer for Lars Ohly’s party.

Persson’s offer, which follows an agreement between the Borgerliga [centre-right] parties to fight the next election under a joint manifesto, caused an immediate backlash from the Left. In a letter to Svenska Dagbladet, the party’s vice-presidents said that they no longer had confidence in Persson. Ingrid Burman and Ulla Hoffman wrote in the letter that the Social Democrats were “moving to the right.”

They claimed that the first that they had heard about the move to break off the partnership was when the prime minister announced it to the press. Burman later told Swedish Radio that a formal coalition between Greens and Social Democrats would not attract support from Left Party members in the Riksdag.

This threat brought ridicule from Social Democrat chairwoman Marita Ulvskog. “I can only observe that if such a situation should arise, the Left Party is welcome to vote for the policies of the Borgerliga parties,” she said to SR.

Ulvskog said that the Left was overreacting to Persson’s comments. Ulvskog claimed that all the parties had agreed that the current loose cooperation between the Social Democrats, Greens and the Left Party could not continue after the next election.

The freezing out of the Left puts more pressure on leader Lars Ohly. The party’s poll ratings have been falling since he said that he considers himself to be a communist. This brought criticism, particularly from leading Social Democrats. Marita Ulvskog told SR that the Left’s future depends on how the party handles questions about its attitude to democracy.

Persson’s talk of coalitions might at first glance seem to hold good news for the Greens, yet reactions from party members made it clear that government is seen as a double-edged sword by many. Green Euro-MP Carl Schlyter said that he was worried that the party would “sell out” on its core principles.

He criticized the recent discussions between the parties on defence, saying that the Greens’ position contradicted the policies that the party had stood on in the next election:

“If the defence proposals are an indication of how we will negotiate in the future, then these negotiations will not lead to an agreement that I can support.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR