Tempers flare in final party leader debate

Mona Sahlin accused Fredrik Reinfeldt of spreading lies as the two traded jabs in a heated Thursday night debate pitting the leaders of Sweden’s seven Riksdag parties against each other just four days before election day.

Tempers flare in final party leader debate

The accusation came after Moderate Party leader Reinfeldt claimed the Red-Green budget proposal was underfunded by 20 billion kronor ($2.84 billion).

“That’s a lie, a lie,” the Social Democratic party leader replied while Left Party leader Lars Ohly and Reinfeldt began to exchange words, after which Ohly explained that the Red-Greens wanted to invest 100 billion kronor in new railways.

Reinfeldt replied by accusing Ohly of wanting to spend wildly.

“Every time Lars Ohly speaks, money starts flying out of his pockets,” said Reinfeldt.

After things calmed down again, Sahlin came back to her previous complaint.

“A lie is a lie even if you scream it,” she said.

The debate, which was televised live on TV4, was filled with spirited exchanges between the party leaders on a number of issues.

Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson and Green Party spokesperson Peter Eriksson sparred over the government’s green credentials.

Olofsson claimed the government had doubled investment in railways and asserted that the government stands for results, not just talk, when it comes to the environment.

“You lie too much,” Eriksson replied.

The Red-Greens also accused the Alliance of closing the door on working class children.

“Not everyone wants to be a college graduate,” said Liberal Party leader and education minister Jan Bjöklund in response.

At issue is a proposal by the Alliance to start vocational training programmes in high schools which won’t allow students who complete them to qualify for entry in colleges and universities.

The Red-Greens are against the proposal.

“You sound like a subway driver. Mind the gap, the doors are closing,” Ohly said to Björklund.

Sahlin pointed out that the labour movement’s education policy has always been about opening doors for the children of the working class.

“Why then does the Alliance want to lower the knowledge requirements for vocational education programmes and close the doors on those who want to improve their knowledge through Komvux [municipal adult education programmes],” asked Sahlin.

She went on to remind her counterparts that the educational pats of both Social Democratic economic policy spokesperson Thomas Östros and finance minister Anders Borg had taken them through Komvux.

“You must be gripped by election panic,” answered Björklund, who then accused the Red-Greens of spreading falsehoods about the government’s education policy.

Olofsson added that small businesses have hailed the government’s plans for expanded vocational training and apprenticeships in high school.

More practical and vocationally-oriented programmes are needed, argued Reinfeldt.

“We have different talents in Sweden and all of them are needed,” he said, adding that it seemed like the Red-Greens didn’t understand the value of talents that can be found in people’s hands.

Following the debate, Reinfeldt was satisfied with the outcome.

“It was a good debate,” he told the TT news agency.

“I was able to make my point that the opposition has a 20 billion kronor hole in their budget.”

He added that the shortfall will likely require the Red-Greens to renege on their campaign promises if they win the election.

But Sahlin disagreed.

“It’s just a bluff, he’s waved that list around before so we’ve been able to take a look at it,” she said.

According to Sahlin, the list includes some proposals which don’t exist and others which are twisted interpretations of other proposals.

Nevertheless, she was happy that the debate had a bit of spark.

“The heat is on now, the differences come through quite clearly and the ideologies became sharper, so it was noticeable that the election is in the final phase,” said Sahlin.

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