Sweden just turned the Social Democrats out of office:
"Sveriges nye statsminister heter Fredrik Reinfeldt. ”Svenska folket har röstat fram en alliansregering”, utropade moderatledaren inför jublande partimedlemmar sent i går kväll. Göran Persson avgår som statsminister och ledare för socialdemokraterna.
Strax före klockan elva i går kväll sträckte Fredrik Reinfeldt armarna i luften på valvakan på Nalen i Stockholm.
– De nya moderaterna är 2006 års val största valsegrare! utropade moderatledaren.
När rösterna vid midnatt hade räknats i 5768 av de 5783 valdistrikten stod det klart att de borgerliga tar hem en historisk seger i riksdagsvalet. Men de vinner med knapp marginal. Alliansen får 48,1 procent av rösterna, medan socialdemokraterna, miljöpartiet och vänsterpartiet tillsammans landar på 46,2 procent. Detta ger de borgerliga partierna sju mandats övervikt i riksdagen."
Oops! Sorry about that. What I meant to say was:
"Sweden swept away 12 years of center-left government on Sunday, voting to reject its longtime prime minister, Goran Persson, in favor of a conservative candidate who has pledged to revise the Swedish welfare state.
With almost all the votes counted by 11 p.m., three hours after the polls closed, the right-of-center coalition led by the leader of the Moderate Party, Fredrik Reinfeldt, had taken 48.1 percent of the vote, compared with 46.2 percent for the Social Democrats and their left-of-center allies."
This will probably be less of a change than it might seem, as far as policy is concerned:
"But in a country that likes stability, Mr. Reinfeldt has been at pains to cast his plans as a fine-tuning, rather than a full-scale overhaul, of Sweden’s economic model. “The Nordic welfare model is in many aspects a good model,” he said as he campaigned Sunday, “but it needs more of a choice for individuals.” (...)
In the previous election four years ago, Mr. Reinfeldt’s party was trounced at the polls when it ran on a traditional platform of big tax cuts and deep reductions in social security benefits. When he became party leader, Mr. Reinfeldt acknowledged that such a stance was unlikely to win any elections in a country that is essentially happy with its underlying big-government, high-tax system.
So he moved the party to the center and settled on unemployment as an issue on which the government would be particularly vulnerable."
Or as I said a few weeks ago:
"The debate between the left and right seems to be much less about what programs the government should pay for than about the best ways of implementing those programs. People think about questions like: should the government run all hospitals, or should private hospitals compete with public ones while receiving full public reimbursement for medical care? This is a debate that takes place, in the US, on the left: most liberals support some sort of national health insurance, but we divide about which particular version is best."
(For anyone interested in the debate over Swedish unemployment numbers, Dean Baker has a good comment. I asked people about it while I was over there; the consensus seemed to be that after decades of having very low unemployment, Sweden had morphed into a more standard European country, in that respect, during the mid-90s.)
If I had to guess -- and I shouldn't really, I don't know enough -- I'd say that the real effect will be to get the Social Democrats to ask themselves some tough and interesting questions. And asking oneself tough and interesting questions is always a good thing.