Sweden's 2006 Parliamentary Election and After: Contesting or Consolidating the Swedish Model?

Agius, Christine
October 2007
Parliamentary Affairs;Oct2007, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p585
Academic Journal
Since the post-war era, the Swedish Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska arbetarepartiet, or SAP) has been regarded as the country's 'natural party of government', occupying a 'hegemonic' position in national political and social life. The institutions it had built up during the post-war period through consensualism and universalism, such as the universal welfare state and the Swedish Model, were part of a broader vision of the folkhem (or 'People's Home'). Yet, despite a strong economic record, healthy pre-election government finances and a manifesto pledge to spend more on public services, the Social Democrats lost to the Alliance for Sweden, the non-socialist coalition, which included the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats. Led by the Moderate Party, the Alliance won by campaigning to maintain the welfare state, while re-shaping it to make it more efficient to survive the pressures of globalisation. Key to the Alliance's success was its embrace of the welfare state, and recasting of the Moderate Party as the 'new workers' party. However, the story is more complex than a simple change in electoral strategy. For some decades, a 'battle of ideas' has developed over the Swedish Model and the welfare state, in an effort to realign the public towards a greater acceptance of individualism and the free-market economy, one led by nonsocialist forces. Thus, the Alliance's proposed reforms to the welfare state and its commitment to maintain it must be viewed in this context. However, the failings of the SAP and its acceptance of some elements of neoliberalism some decades back also had a significant role to play in explaining why the Swedish electorate came to trust that the non-socialist bloc would act as the 'guardian' of the welfare state.


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