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In Swing to Left, Swedes 'Turn Their Backs' on Austerity

Social Democrat Party leader Stefan Löfven poised to head minority government as far-right party also claims parliamentary seats

Stefan Löfven, pictured here in June, has pledged to roll back the austerity policies that have overtaken the traditionally socialist country. (Photo: Phil Jamieson)

Turning their backs on the prevailing austerity government, Swedish voters on Sunday elected the Social Democrat Party and its head Stefan Löfven to lead the country, allowing the center-left parties to reclaim power in the historically socialist state.

The Social Democrat Party, along with the Green Party and the Left Party, won 43.7 percent of the vote and 159 parliamentary seats forcing current Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt—who championed lower taxes for the wealthy and the privatization of public services, such as education— to declare his resignation. The left-leaning parties have yet to establish a formal bloc.

"The Swedish people have turned their backs against tax cuts and privatizations. The Swedish people demanded change," said Löfven, a former welder and union organizer, during his victory speech. Though Sweden has fared better than others in the wake of the global economic collapse, the wealthy, Nordic state has mounting unemployment and complaints of failing standards of public services under increased privatization.

"We are in [a] serious situation. We have thousands of people unemployed, [w]e have school results that are declining more than in any other OECD country," Löfven continued. "There is something that is breaking. Now Sweden has answered that we need a change." 

According to Reuters, under Reinfeldt, Sweden "lost much of its image as a socialist welfare state." 

Reuters reports: "The country's tax burden fell four percentage points, to 45 percent of GDP, under France's. Taxes on inheritance and wealth were lowered or abolished. More Michelin star restaurants than ever opened in Stockholm."

However, while the policies of the left had clearly won the day, the country's far-right, anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats (which reportedly had early ties to the Swedish Nazi movement) also gained 48 parliamentary seats and won 13 percent of the vote, causing many to question the future efficacy of the new leadership over such a divided body. The Social Democrats have already refused to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats and so will be heading a fractured minority government.

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