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Sweden Modern History

Thanks to its undamaged industry, Sweden, after the Second World War, had a head start over almost all other European countries. Growth was very strong and the welfare state was consolidated. The Social Democrats (S) ruled the country. Economic crisis contributed to a bourgeois alliance taking power in 1976 and sitting for six years. The country was shaken in 1986 by the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme. With the exception of a three-year period in the 1990s, the Social Democrats remained in power until 2006, when a moderately-led bourgeois four-party alliance took over.

After the end of World War II in 1945, a Social Democratic minister was formed under Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson. He died in 1946 and was succeeded by Tage Erlander, who remained prime minister until 1969 when Olof Palme took over. During the period 1951–1957 S was part of a majority coalition with the Peasant Association (later the Center Party), but otherwise the party usually formed a minority government on its own.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Sweden. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Between 1939 and 1960, Sweden's GDP doubled. The welfare society was built up and several social reforms were implemented. During the rapid economic growth of the 1960s, the Social Democrats' position of power was strengthened and the bourgeois bloc weakened.

In 1973, Gustaf VI Adolf, who has been king since 1950, died and was succeeded by his grandson Carl XVI Gustaf. The following year, a new form of government was adopted which meant that the monarch's role became merely ceremonial.

The optimism of the welfare society was seriously broken during the 1970s, when the international oil crisis also hit Sweden hard. At the same time, the Swedish industry, which had high costs, received increased competition from abroad. The Social Democratic government was criticized for the continued high taxes.

Contemporary History of SwedenCenter-right government

In the 1976 parliamentary elections, the Social Democrats lost and Sweden got a bourgeois government for the first time in 40 years. The Center Party (C), the People's Party (FP) and the Moderates (M) ruled for two years before the collaboration burst due to disagreement on the nuclear issue, whereupon the FP formed a minority government. Even after the 1979 election, a bourgeois three-party coalition was formed and then a minority government, now with C and FP. C leader Thorbjörn Fälldin led three of the four bourgeois governments.

In the 1982 election, S regained power and Olof Palme returned as prime minister. S also won the 1985 election.

On February 28, 1986, Sweden was shaken by the first political murder of modern times, when Palme was shot dead on Sveavägen in the center of Stockholm. An abuser was convicted of the murder in the district court but was later released in the court of law and no one could later be convicted of the crime (see Calendar). New Prime Minister after Palme became Ingvar Carlsson.

The Social Democrats won the election in 1988, but because of the deteriorating economic situation, election promises for continued expansion of welfare were not fulfilled. Instead, the government agreed with FP on the "tax reform of the century", which led to sharply reduced marginal taxes on employment. For the Swedish welfare model this was a trend break, which in the 1990s would be followed by several market liberal reforms. In the 1988 election, the Environment Party (MP) entered the Parliament for the first time.

New change of power

The following election, 1991, resulted in a shift in power. M leader Carl Bildt formed a minority government consisting of the three traditional bourgeois parties and the Christian Democrats (KD), who for the first time entered parliament. The government was supported by a populist party, New Democracy, which was also new to Parliament. The bourgeois government implemented some tax cuts and deregulations in the economy. But the mandate period was largely characterized by a deep recession, with record high unemployment and large credit losses for the banks. The situation became acute in the autumn of 1992, when the Swedish krona was squeezed by currency speculation. This led to a unique collaboration where the government and the Social Democrats agreed in two “crisis settlements” on comprehensive savings measures.

The 1994 elections resulted in the Social Democrats returning to office. Parts of the reform policy continued and the restructuring of the state's finances was successful (see Economic overview).

Shortly after the election, the worst human catastrophe ever occurred in Sweden's modern history. The passenger ferry "Estonia" sank in the Baltic Sea on the way from Tallinn to Stockholm. Of the 852 people killed, most were Swedes.

Sweden joins the EU

A referendum on Swedish EU membership was held in November 1994. Jasidan won with 52 percent of the vote, and Sweden became a member at the turn of the year.

Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson resigned in March 1996 and was succeeded by former Finance Minister Göran Persson. S won the elections in 1998 and 2002, and Persson continued to lead minority governments.

In September 2003, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was attacked by a knife-armed man in a Stockholm department store. She died the following morning. A mentally disturbed man at the age of 25 was later sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, but no political motives emerged.

A few days after the assassination, no-one won in a referendum on the EU's single currency, the euro, with 56 percent of the vote.

On December 26, 2004, a severe earthquake with subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean occurred. The devastation was terrible in the region, and the disaster had serious consequences for Sweden as well. Eventually, it was clear that 534 Swedish citizens had perished, most of them in Thailand, which was more than the Estonia disaster in 1994. There were also major political repercussions. The government and the relevant authorities were accused of late and inadequate efforts for affected Swedes. The handling came under scrutiny by an independent inquiry that drew sharp criticism of a number of government ministers and senior officials.

The alliance forms government

Two years before the 2006 election, the four bourgeois parties formed a ballot collaboration Alliance for Sweden (later the Alliance) and for the first time presented a joint election manifesto. The alliance prevailed in the election, thereby breaking S's twelve-year power holdings (see Calendar). The new moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt received strong support since he moved the party closer to the political center. The Moderates received almost doubled voter support compared to the previous election, while S made its worst result since 1921 when the first general voting right election was held. Göran Persson resigned and was succeeded as S-leader by Mona Sahlin.

In the new majority government, M took half of the ministerial posts and the other three parties shared the rest. Most notable was that former Prime Minister Carl Bildt became Foreign Minister. The alliance quickly fulfilled a series of election promises that lowered taxes on work, through so-called job tax deductions. The wealth tax was abolished and the property tax was replaced with a municipal fee, which meant a substantial reduction for owners of expensive villas in the big cities. Fees to the unemployment fund were increased and the benefits were lowered, and the rules for sickness benefit and early retirement were tightened. New dietary defenses were also announced, which eventually led Defense Minister Mikael Odenberg to resign in protest.

Despite rising unemployment, Sweden was better than most other European countries through the financial crisis and the recession in 2008-2009. This helped to renew the mandate of the bourgeois parties in the 2010 general election and Fredrik Reinfeldt formed a new government (see Calendar). The election seemed to confirm a course change in Swedish politics. M continued his advance and became almost equal to S, who made a disaster choice.

The Swedish Democrats in the Riksdag

However, the Alliance parties lost their majority in the Riksdag. The main reason was that the Swedish Democrats (SD) took their seats in Parliament for the first time. Many voters, in all political camps, were appalled that a party with Nazi roots and strong xenophobic tendencies was now sitting in the Riksdag and was also given a wave role. During the term of office, SD came to support the bourgeois minority government on a number of issues.

S who was in crisis after the unlucky election result in March 2011 appointed Håkan Juholt as new party leader. He was criticized quite immediately, among other things, for revelations about questionable housing subsidies, and was succeeded in early 2012 by the trade union IF Metall's chairman Stefan Löfven. The change of party leader gave a boost in opinion polls.

Eventually, the criticism against the Reinfeldt government and his Finance Minister Anders Borg increased, which was considered to be too cautious. Many called for more offensive fiscal policy as the world economy continued to be shaky. Sweden fared better than most countries in Europe, but the eurozone debt crisis threw long shadows and growth forecasts had to be written down gradually.

In the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, SD went ahead and received support of close to 10 percent. Less expected was the Feminist initiative's (Fi) strong performance, at 5.5 percent, while MP became the second largest party with just over 15 percent (see also Calendar). Opinion polls ahead of the parliamentary elections in September gave the red-green parties a clear lead before the Alliance.

 
 

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