Four more years of Göran

If Sweden’s electorate allows the Social Democrats to rule Sweden for another four years, it will be with Göran Persson as prime minister. That was the decision of the party’s conference in Malmö on Monday.

This was the fourth time Persson had been chosen as leader since first rising to the top of his party in 1996.

Looking moved as he accepted the applause of delegates, Persson indicated that he could even stay longer than four years.

“I’m not worn out – at the next conference I will be a normal age for a European politician,” he said.

“I might remain for one more parliament – I don’t rule it out.”

As recently as this spring, Persson was speculating publically that he could retire. He now says he regrets being so unguarded but adds that he doesn’t think the episode harmed him. The public appreciates influential people who show a human side, he believes.

“Only a lunatic would let himself be reelected without reflecting about what that involves,” he said.

“I know what the job involves and you don’t just rush into it,” Persson continued, adding that he had been reflecting on the issue for some time. He said he had now decided that it would be fun to continue.

“I know that it’s four hard years, but to succeed from time to time is enormously stimulating,” he said.

Persson gave his keynote speech to the conference on Friday. In it, he laid into the opposition, which has been consistently leading in opinion polls.

He reminded his “comrades” of “interest rates of 500 percent” under the last conservative-liberal government, and that “half a million people lost their jobs between 1991 and 1994.”

He also defended the Swedish model, and said that Swedish employment levels were in fact better than those in many other European countries.

“Say the word collective agreement. Taste it. Is there a more beautiful word,” he asked, adding that those who attack collective agreements “attack Sweden. You attack the core of the Swedish model. And the Swedish model, the labour movement, the unions and the party, side by side is prepared to battle for this.”

The conference also elected finance minister Pär Nuder to the party’s leadership council, which consists of Persson, party secretary Marita Ulvskog and a further five members.

Persson welcomed Nuder to the job, and said that it is right that the finance minister sits on the council.

The other four members were all reelected to their positions: Bosse Ringholm, Mona Sahlin, Elvy Söderström and Wanja Lundby-Wedin. Marita Ulvskog, who has served as acting party secretary, was reelected.

Looking forward to four more years with Persson?