Published November 17, 2014
Sweden's candidates for prime minister:
Reinfeldt, 45, hopes to become the first center-right leader to win re-election in modern Sweden, where politics for decades were dominated by the left-leaning Social Democrats. Reinfeldt has moved his once-conservative Moderate Party toward the center, singing the praises of the welfare state while wooing middle-class workers with income tax cuts. Like a good Swede he rarely raises his voice, but remains matter-of-factly while repeating his mantra that the welfare state's future depends on its ability to create jobs. Reinfeldt's four-party coalition government was rocked by scandals shortly after taking office in 2006, when two Cabinet members resigned amid allegations of tax evasion. The prime minister himself, however, appears so well-behaved that some wonder whether he's ever done anything wrong. A self-professed clean freak, Reinfeldt says his secret passion is chasing dust balls with a vacuum cleaner. "The pleasant rattling noise, when things just tumble in, is best achieved with a narrow mouthpiece," he told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
The first woman to lead Sweden's powerful Social Democratic Party, Sahlin was considered a breath of fresh air when she assumed the post in 2007, but approval ratings soon dipped. The down-to-earth 53-year-old has reached out to minority voters, including immigrants and gays and lesbians. Her appeal seems weaker among some traditional Social Democratic constituencies, including male blue-collar workers. A die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan, Sahlin developed her political passion — and dislike for U.S.-style capitalism — during protests against the Vietnam War. She declared her deep fondness for Springsteen in a 2003 newspaper column, saying his music had opened her eyes to a U.S. "where the American dream was about more than making money." Sahlin's political career abruptly derailed in 1995, when she resigned as deputy prime minister after a newspaper revealed she had used a government credit card for personal purchases, including diapers and chocolate. She returned to the government in 1998, serving as labor market, integration and environment minister until the Social Democrats were ousted in 2006.