Sweden's centre-right opposition secured a narrow victory in yesterday's general election, ending 12 years of rule by the Social Democrats, who have governed for 65 of the last 74 years.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the next prime minister, declared victory shortly before 11pm after a nail-biting finish which gave his four-party Alliance for Sweden a wafer-thin parliamentary majority.
His group was on course to win 178 seats in the 349-seat parliament—seven ahead of the Social Democrats and its allies on the left. With 99.7% of Sweden's districts counted, Mr Reinfeldt's alliance led with 48.1%, compared with 46.2% for the left. "The Swedish people have voted in an alliance government," Mr Reinfeldt told cheering, flag-waving supporters….
The loss for the Social Democrats, who have held office since 1994, represents a big political shift for Sweden, which is normally wary of the centre right. The Social Democrats, who won around 35.3% of the vote—their worst share since 1914—are seen to embody Sweden's "social model" which is praised across Europe for allowing strong economic growth while providing generous cradle-to-grave benefits.
For a great history of the Swedish welfare state–and a prescient tale of its decline–read Johan Norberg's excellent recent essay in the National Interest, in which he points out, among other things, that Sweden's total tax burden as a percentage of GDP in 1950 was less that of the United States and that the Swedish-model welfare state didn't really get cranked up until the 1970s.
Reason interviewed Norberg a few years back, focusing on his book In Defense of Global Capitalism. Read the Q&A here.