Alliance gets on the rails to woo voters

There might be over a year to go until the next election, but given the frenetic activity of the parties in Sweden, one could be forgiven for thinking that campaigning was already underway.

The centre-right alliance that hopes to throw Prime Minister Göran Persson and his Social Democrat government out of office started a national tour on Tuesday to show a united front to voters, on the same day that a new poll showed the Social Democrats recovering support at the Moderate Party’s expense.

In an apparent effort to show that the Alliance is still alive and well, Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt and the leaders of the other parties hopped on a specially chartered train in Stockholm on Tuesday to start two day tour of the country.

Lars Leijonborg, leader of the Liberals, said that the tour was evidence that the Alliance remains united.

“The Alliance for Sweden has come here to show that there is an alternative to the tired government we have today,” he told supporters and media in Uppsala.

Announcing plans to give old people the right to choose their own home help providers, the parties chose to characterise their new policy as part of a “struggle for freedom”. The party leaders were even wearing orange jerseys, in a conscious echo of the colour favoured by Ukranian democracy activists.

“This is about a question of principle: how do we want welfare and care services to look in the future?” said Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson.

“We think that they should be far more adjusted to the needs of individuals. One could also say the same thing about childcare. Politics should give you the possibility to make your own choices,” she said.

This latest show of unity was accompanied by a reminder that the Right’s recent successes in the opinion polls are still fragile. The Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party, on a combined showing of 45.3 percent, still trail the Alliance, which has the supoprt of 51 percent of voters. This is only marginally down on the figures in the same poll last month, in which the Alliance was on 52.3 and the left-wing bloc on 44.8. More worryingly for Reinfeldt, the poll showed that the Social Demcrats’ own support had jumped by five percentage points, while support for theModerates was down.

The change comes after recent discussions over the Swedish benefits system, with the Moderates arguing for drastically reduced benefit levels. This proposition put Fredrik Reinfeldt’s party at odds with its Liberal allies, with the result that some commentators have started to question whether the Right really can forge the unity needed to beat Persson.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet