Unemployment was the main topic of a televised debate between Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and the leader of the Moderate Party, less than two weeks ahead of a general election. The Social Democrat chief spoke of the economy in glowing terms, saying 550 new jobs were being created every day and attacked Fredrik Reinfeldt’s proposal to reduce benefits for the unemployed. But the Moderates claim less income tax and lower costs for bosses would boost employment. Although Swedes have a world-beating welfare state, low unemployment and a strong economy, the Social Democrats have been in power for 12 years and many voters want a change.
Under Reinfeldt, the Moderates have moved towards the centre ground, much like the Conservatives in Britain, and now style themselves as the “new workers’ party”. But a spying scandal appears to have handed the ruling party a boost in the polls. A member of the Liberal Party – the second largest group in the opposition bloc – hacked into the Social Democrats’ computer network.