‘Ironing Persson’ cagey over minister positions

Prime minister Göran Persson is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding which other parties' support he will call upon in the event of an election victory.

“I have no other mandate than to seek support for a Social Democratic government,” he said in SVT’s televised leadership debate on Sunday evening.

With an ironic tone of voice Persson noted that the Social Democrats may not achieve a majority in the election.

“In that case I’m ready to cooperate with whoever wants to develop the Swedish welfare society,” he said.

The Green Party, which has supported the Social Democrat government in the current parliament, is demanding a ministerial seat in a red-green government. If the Greens are let in, then the other support party, the Left Party, will also demand a seat.

Persson says that does not worry him.

“That’s what they said in 1998 and 2002 as well.”

Göran Persson indicated that he was seeking a mandate to be prime minister for the whole of the next parliament, up until 2010. As recently as six months ago he let it be known that he was considering stepping down.

Persson also faced a series of personal questions, not least about how he can relate to ordinary working Swedes after so many years as prime minister – and after buying an estate and manor house for many millions of kronor.

“I know just as much about normal people as before,” he said.

The prime minister revealed that he does his own ironing and cleaning, and criticised the opposition’s proposal to cut the tax on household services.

“People should do their own cleaning, that’s what I think,” he said.

The programme host Mats Knutson pressed Persson on why the divisions in society had not declined further under the Social Democrats, and why so many people are living on state benefits.

Several times the prime minister questioned Knutson’s statistics and claimed that Sweden’s economic development is on the right track.

Afterwards, an evidently satisfied Persson met the media. He thought the interview, which he described as tough, went well.

Nevertheless, he said he had “no idea” how important such an appearance would be in the final reckoning on September 17th.

“But clearly it means something,” he said.

“It’s an election. The tempo is stepping up and the temperature is rising – in that sense I believe it’s important.