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Persson: 'They can trust us'

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CNN) -- CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley recently spoke to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, whose Social Democrats appear headed for re-election on September 15. Here is an edited transcript of that interview:

CNN: With parties of the right sweeping much of Europe lately, why does Sweden seem to be prepared to stick with the Social Democrats?

Persson: Perhaps because we have done the right things a couple of years ago. We managed to turn the public finances around.

We managed to press down unemployment and now we have been able to design a policy that is almost consequential and has given us room for tax decreases but also improvements in the welfare sector.

And on top of that (there is) an ongoing fall of the unemployment rate. So I think Swedes believe that Sweden is going in the right direction and they realise that the pain we experienced a couple of years ago was worth it and now we have some gain from that.

CNN: Are you taking a risk in that your opponents, the Liberals and the Moderates, are saying that Sweden, the most highly taxed country in the world, must have more tax cuts, and yet you are denying those to the public?

Persson: I don't want to go for an election campaign where I promise to do it, because I want to keep my promises and my first promise is to improve the quality in the school system.

But if the unemployment continues to fall, if we have a growth rate better than Europe, there might be room for tax reductions. But I don't promise that in the election campaign and I think the electorate realises that they can trust us.

If there is room we will do it, but if there is not room to do it then we will not begin to mismanage the public finances with a deficit.

CNN: Immigration has been an issue which has come to the fore in most other elections across Europe in recent times. Why is it less of a factor in Sweden?

Persson: There has been traditionally some type of an agreement between all political parties in Sweden, and between media and the political parties, not to give room for the right-wing extremists to misuse the fact that we in Sweden have at least 10 percent of the population as immigrants, coming to Sweden in the last 10-15 years.

They have contributed to our society, without them we wouldn't have been able to maintain our welfare, we all realise that. Why then create tensions and difficulties letting the right-wing extremists dominate the election campaign? All of the responsible political parties have said no to that, and I think we stick to that policy.

CNN: If this election is to be determined by one single issue, what do you think that issue will be? .

Persson: I think it is in the end what type of government will be best suited to take care of the Swedish interests in a more international globalised economy and world. And I'm quite confident that our record will give us some type of advantage compared to a relatively unknown alternative on the right-wing side.


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