The Swedish election campaign has been between the non-Socialist alliance's demands for tax cuts and the red-green opposition's demands for increased welfare. With only a few days left everything is pointing to a conservative victory. As we write, the government alliance is leading in all opinion polls.
The red-green opposition has long been described as the loser, despite the fact that the differences between the blocks are not very great.
The Moderates Fredrik Reinfeldt has perhaps sometimes claimed victory in advance. He certainly won the last television debate according to the polls, but it was the Social Democrats Mona Sahlin who converted the most voters.
The day after the television debate, Aftonbladet's cultural section published an article written by an anonymous group of journalists from conservative newspapers: "The pressure on Sahlin"
The journalists referred to the media researcher Ester Pollack who has scrutinised the front pages of the main daily newspapers for two months: Mona Sahlin was reported negatively eighteen times whilst Fredrik Reinfeldt was only described negatively five times.
Mona Sahlin has been exposed to an unprecedented negative campaign, according to the group of journalists.
Henrik Oscarsson, Professor of Political Science, also believes that the reporting of Stockholm's largest morning newspaper, Dagens Nyhteter, has been dishonest and lacking in objectivity.
The journalists' article caused a great stir and spread quickly on the Internet. The question is whether the storm of protest is enough to reverse the trend for Mona Sahlin, or whether Fredrik Reinfeldt will reign on.
But even if Fredrik Reinfeldt is still striding ahead with a fair amount of confidence, it does not necessarily mean he will win the election. It could instead be the Sweden Democrats' Jimmie Åkesson, who has come to the fore in recent weeks. He is getting all the big headlines and, according to opinion polls, his xenophobic party will get into parliament and the situation all the established parties have been warned against will happen.
Sweden can become another European country with xenophobic representatives in parliament.
From the right to the left, the Swedish parliamentary parties have shunned the Sweden Democrats. The media has also been restrictive and the responsible editor of the commercial television channel TV4 refused to broadcast the Sweden Democrats' election manifesto uncensored. It made no difference that Danish politicians wanted to send election observers to Sweden. That proposal was rather met with ironic raised eyebrows.
Unlike, for example, the Danish People's Party, the Sweden Democrats is not a party of discontent. Instead, many of the leading Sweden Democrats come from the pure racist white power movement. The magazine Expo recently revealed the party's affiliation with Nazi groups. For example, 21 of the party's candidates for local authority, county council or parliamentary elections are, or have been, members of the Nazi forum Nordisk.nu.
In the spring, Jimmie Åkesson promised to purge the party of members who had a criminal past. In the election campaign he now constantly repeats that the party's parliamentary candidates have to show an entry from the police criminal records before they can stand as election candidates.
The strategy of the established parties has been not to enter into a debate with the Sweden Democrats under any circumstances. The party is not even taking part in any of the final debates to be broadcast on television in the last week of the election. Yet it was the media themselves who eventually brought Jimmie Åkesson and his party into the limelight.
It's a media drama, perhaps a typical Swedish one or perhaps just one typical of our time. The election has actually transformed from a democratic process to a primetime reality soap opera. Seven parties divide themselves into two teams where the best one wins. At the beginning of the election campaign the media triggered the bidding of the parties; who is offering most to pensioners? From which year at school should pupils be given grades?
Point by point they were compared and the political pundits judged which block was winning each event. The dramaturgy was easy to follow in graphics, tables and web ballots but it made all form of ideological statement impossible. The election campaign became a contest that was depicted without stories and without any contact to the ordinary voters. All talk about interactivity disappeared; the voters were quickly transformed into the paying public.
Since the media have dealt with all the topics only the final remained, the last battle to be in government, and it was only then that the Sweden Democrats were invited indoors by the media. The fact is that the party can hold the balance of power which will be crucial for whoever gets into government.
There are still a few television appearances left and it is a certainty that the reality soap will have a dramatic finale. For no matter who wins, it can be said that the Swedish election campaign had very little to with ideology and very much to do with power play.