Reinfeldt and Sahlin pleased with first debate

It was difficult to pick a winner in the first televised debate between new Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt . Despite the soft approach favoured by both debaters, the contest was peppered with sly digs and faint praise.

At one early stage, Sahlin accused Reinfeldt of sounding like “an old Social Democrat”.

“But behind the facade lies a Moderate politician who wants to do something completely different,” she said after the debate.

Most of the debate concerned labour market policies. Sahlin critized the government for reducing unemployment benefits and cutting back on labour market programmes when there is a lack of jobs.

“We are making it more worthwhile to work,” said Reinfeldt.

Both agreed that the issue of unemployment benefits will retain its importance for the next general election in 2010.

As time ran out, both managed to quickly define where they stood on education, family policies and the climate issue.

“It was a fun start,” said Sahlin afterwards.

Reinfeldt noted a vast difference between the debating styles of Sahlin and her predecessor Göran Persson .

“Göran is a very aggressive politician. But we will probably raise the tone too. We can see this as an initial feeler,” he added.

Joakim Goksör