Leaders in savage election clash

Göran Persson and his rival for the job of Sweden's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, clashed in an angry debate on Swedish Radio on Friday.

Reinfeldt attacked Persson for lacking a policy to create jobs, while Persson accused his opponents of wanting to help the rich.

And once more Persson refused to say which partners he would form a government if he had a mandate after the election.

Persson said Reinfeldt was pursuing “class politics”, and as in previous debates said that the Moderates and their Alliance partners would increase the gap between rich and poor, and that their proposals to reduce unemployment benefit would create insecurity and injustice.

“People would not be able to afford to be unemployed. Your entire platform aims to widen the gap. I will never, ever accept your system change,” said Persson.

Despite the fact that the Alliance’s tax cuts are aimed at low and middle income groups, Persson repeatedly attacked Reinfeldt for wanting to benefit the rich. He backed himself up by citing the Alliance’s proposal to scrap wealth tax and their reductions in benefits for people on sick pensions.

But Reinfeldt said that it was Persson who had reduced taxes on the rich.

“If there is one person who has pursued tax policies that have consistently benefited the few, it is you with special policies for the rich, lower tax for experts and lower property tax for house owners but not for people who rent. Benefiting the few is what you do best,” he said.

Responding to Persson’s repeated question of how reduced unemployment benefit would lead to more jobs, Reinfeldt reminded the prime minister of his own policy in the mid-nineties.

“You were most successful at reducing unemployment when you reduced unemployment benefit,” he said.

Reinfeldt also accused Persson of lacking policies to create more jobs, while Persson yet again accused his challenger of victimizing the poorest in society. And so the debate continued, with the two men often talking over each other. Occasionally the tone became cross:

“You claim that jobs are coming, but that is based on statistics that count AMS labour market programmes,” said Reinfeldt.

“But you want to close AMS,” replied Persson.

“No, if you could maybe drop all your lies, then…” replied Reinfeldt.

“You know which side the lies are on in this election campaign,” replied Persson.