With less than a week to go, the most interesting questions are not those that people were earlier expecting. For a start, the issue of whether the current four-party, centre-right coalition government would hold on to office is no longer the one that everyone's talking about. Unless the polls are drastically and systematically wrong, the coalition will retain power. Their lead over the left-of-centre parties has grown steadily over the last three weeks or so.
Instead, the main questions are: will the far-right Sweden Democrats get into parliament for the first time? and, if they do, will they then hold the balance of power? At the moment, it looks pretty likely that the Sweden Democrats will indeed get past the 4% threshold.
Previously, everyone assumed that, because the left and right blocs were so evenly matched, the Sweden Democrats would thus deprive both those blocs of a parliamentary majority - something of a nightmare scenario for all the mainstream parties. But such has been the decline of the left, the Social Democrats especially, that the government's current majority might even survive a breakthrough by an eighth party into parliament. The 35% that the Social Democrats achieved in 2006 was widely seen as a historic failure. Their performance in this election looks set to be a lot worse. Incredibly, they may not even end up as the biggest party.
What's gone wrong for the Social Democrats? Lots of things, of course.
But the one factor that pretty much all commentators agree on is the fateful decision in autumn 2007 to build a pre-electoral coalition with the Greens and the Left Party. Something similar has worked well in Norway; but it's been a different story in Sweden. One of the more entertaining features of this election campaign has been the Left Party's consistently and cheerfully emphasising the issues on which the allied left-of-centre parties are least agreed, and those on which the Left's preferences are least in tune with those of broader public opinion. (As the Social Democrats' support appears to have collapsed, and the Greens' has slipped back, the Left's own poll figures have held up pretty well.) A good deal of post-election recrimination is to on the cards.
Malin Stegmann McCallion Dr Malin Stegmann McCallion
Fil Dr, Universitetslektor Senior Lecturer/Assistant Professor
Statsvetenskap Political Science
Karlstads universitet Karlstad University
Universitetsgatan 2 Universitetsgatan 2
651 88 Karlstad 651 88 Karlstad