Queensland has had its third successive landslide, but the rest of the world still has cliffhangers. Yesterday was the first anniversary of the 2005 New Zealand election, which started the pattern, and it continued in Sweden: the centre-right opposition has ousted the ruling Social Democrats, with a lead of only about two percentage points.

Sweden’s new prime minister will be Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderates (basically conservatives). He will have to keep together a four-party coalition, including also the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the rural-based Centre Party. Given his narrow majority, it is unlikely that there will be drastic changes to Sweden’s social model.

The change seems to have been driven by discontent over unemployment as well as a general feeling that the left had been in power too long. Up to 1976 the Social Democrats governed without a break for 40 years, but since then voters seem inclined to keep them on a shorter leash.

The interesting question is how long this run of close elections will continue. In twelve months, Germany, Poland, Sri Lanka, Canada, Peru, Italy, the Czech Republic and Mexico (among others) have all been unusually close. Nobody seems to have any explanation, but if it’s just coincidence then it’s a very remarkable one.

The next big ones coming up are Austria and Brazil on 1 October, followed by Ecuador, Nicaragua, the US congress and the Netherlands over the following two months. It’s about time someone other than our state Labor governments won a landslide.

Peter Fray

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