Reinfeldt and Sahlin lock horns in televised debate

While both Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin could agree that Sweden should support troubled euro area countries, the tone of their Sunday evening televised debate was often heated.

Reinfeldt and Sahlin lock horns in televised debate

“We will all be affected if calm and order is not restored,” Sahlin said in a live election debate on Sveriges Television’s (SVT) Agenda news programme.

Both Reinfeldt and Sahlin characterised the situation in southern Europe as serious with the prime minister explaining that Sweden was prepared to offer loans, but at competitive market rates.

“We can say right now that we are not going to risk taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Reinfeldt warned that the crisis could deepen if EU countries could not quickly reach agreement and that Sweden is not immune despite not being a part of the single European currency.

“It is important that we do the right thing now,” he said.

Reinfeldt emphasised that Sweden was the ‘happy exception’ in the EU with sound public finances and a smaller national debt than in 2006, when the Alliance coalition assumed power. At this point Sahlin reminded Reinfeldt of the deep financial crisis under the centre-right government at the beginning of the 1990s.

Sahlin continued by attacking Reinfeldt’s claim that the national debt had decreased under the tenure of the current government, arguing that it had only done so thanks to the sale of state assets, such as Vin & Sprit.

“It is surely positive that I have sold a spirits factory and seen to it that the national debt and taxes have been reduced,” Reinfeldt retorted.

Both party leaders underlined their continuing support for Sweden’s membership of the euro, although they agreed that further evaluation was required after the recent demonstration of the euro’s weaknesses.

Reinfeldt and Sahlin differed on their view on welfare with Sahlin arguing that the centre-left coalition strive to reduce differences among social groups, while Reinfeldt was keen to emphasise the right of the individual to choose what is best for them.

The pair also differed on taxes with Reinfeldt underlining that the Alliance coalition had no plans to raise taxes, while Sahlin arguing that taxes would be raised in order to improve public services.

Sweden’s pensioners stand to stand to benefit from tax cuts regardless of which coalition comes to power at the September election, with Reinfeldt and Sahlin at one point competing on the scale of their respective plans.

The debate was concluded with a discussion over the tax rises on petrol proposed by the left-green opposition.

“The hike is needed for the sake of the environment,” said Mona Sahlin in defence of the plan. Reinfeldt meanwhile argued that the environment is done a disservice by raising the tax burden of those living in the countryside and dependent on their cars.

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Swedish teen hits gold with love tweets to PM

A perky Swedish schoolgirl with a wry sense of humour has suddenly found herself with thousands of fans fascinated with details of her fictional crush on Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, making her our pick for Swede of the Week.

“Imagine you and Reinfeldt sending silly snapchats to eachother ♡,” reads the maiden tweet from the @imaginreinfeldt Twitter account.

The tweet is accompanied with a picture of the Swedish prime minister in profile, a finger on his nose as he stares at a microphone, apparently deep in thought.



Since taking its place in the twittosphere on the evening of September 8th, a mere four days ago at time of writing, the account has attracted more than 3,200 followers, much to the surprise of its creator, 14-year-old Ebba.

“The response has been great fun. It's great to know that I'm able to make people laugh,” she says.

When contacted by The Local on her mobile phone, Ebba is in gym class, huffing along on a run with her fellow sixth graders in Hallen, a community of 200 residents on the shores of Storsjön lake in Åre municipality in northern Sweden.

“I really never imagined this would attract any attention. I did it because I thought it was fun,” she explains when asked about the Twitter account.



Ebba says she first began to reflect on the gold mine of humour hidden beneath the prime minister's austere exterior when she was 11-years-old, around the time of Sweden's last general election when Reinfeldt and his government earned a second term in office.

“He has this appearance that is somewhat serious. But I think he looks a lot like a puppy dog,” she says.

“I've always thought he's sort of an amusing guy who is easy to make fun of.”



Over the past couple of years, Ebba, a girl with a “special sense of humour who likes to joke about inappropriate topics” offered up a range of Reinfeldt-inspired quips to her friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Seeing Reinfeldt's face plastered on the television and the front pages of newspapers during last week's visit of US President Barack Obama prompted Ebba to think anew about the next step in her ever-evolving Reinfeldt joke meme.

“I'd gotten a lot of positive responses to my postings on social media,” she explains.

“And I had all these ideas of imagining Reinfeldt in different made-up scenes, so I decided to launch an entire Twitter account dedicated to the joke of having a crush on Reinfeldt.”



Ebba, who is currently single, emphasizes that flirtatious Twitter account is “totally made up” and that she in no way harbours feelings for Reinfeldt, who finalized his divorce from his wife Filippa in February 2013 after two decades of marriage.

Nor does she harbour any political leanings of her own.

“I'm not into politics. I don't have any real political opinions of my own. The account is meant to be totally neutral,” she says.

All the @imaginreinfeldt tweets are written in English, Ebba says, for the simple fact that “everything sounds much funnier in English”.

While Ebba has yet to meet Reinfeldt face-to-face, she knows exactly what she'd do should the opportunity arise.

“I'd simply tell him he's really lovely,” she says.

“And then I'd give him a big hug.”

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the Week is someone in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

SEE ALSO: A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

David Landes

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