Persson’s holiday behind party’s summer slump

A leading Social Democrat has blamed the Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, for his party's sliding popularity over the summer.

Ilmar Reepalu, a city councillor in Malmö, told Sydsvenska Dagbladet that Persson’s two month summer break is too long and that it had allowed the four centre-right opposition parties to increase their lead over the ruling Social Democrats and their allies.

“It is incredibly important,” said Reepalu.

“He holds the seat of power in the government and attracts the most attention. If he is away from politics we end up out of the mainstream.”

A survey this week showed that if an election were held now, Göran Persson would have to hand over the keys to Sagerska Palatset – the Prime Minister’s residence – to Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Almost 54% of those polled said they would vote for one of the opposition parties – 10% more than would vote for the Social Democrats or their allies.

“The party has essentially been invisible in the media over the summer,” said Reepalu.

Persson, who in June saw his salary rise 4.5% to 116,000 kronor a month, is due to get back in the political saddle on Sunday with his traditional speech to the party faithful in Björkvik, outside Katrineholm.

Many observers are viewing the speech as more than just a warm-up for the autumn rough-and-tumble of Swedish parliamentary affairs.

“The speech is important and will set the direction of Social Democrat policies before the election,” said the chairman of the party’s Skåne chapter, Heléne Fritzon.

“I see it as the start of the campaign.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, SR Photo on previous page: Ester Sorri/