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US election fever hits Sweden

US election fever hits Sweden

Published on: 04 Nov 2008 13:06 CET

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The front pages of most major Swedish newspapers were dominated on Tuesday by stories of the US election, and several morning television broadcasts featured reports from journalists scattered around the United States.

“A historic duel” declared the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, while readers of the Metro newspaper were told, “Now it’s time for the final battle”.

Meanwhile Svenska Dagbladet’s front page proclaimed, “Obama ahead at the finish”, noting that most opinion polls in the US show the Democratic senator from Illinois with a slight lead over John McCain, his Republican rival from Arizona.

Swedes’ high level of interest in the US election comes as no surprise to political commentator Stig-Björn Ljunggren.

“There is a long history of strong ties between the United States and Sweden,” he told The Local.

“Every Swede has at least one relative in the US,” he added jokingly.

Currently in Washington, DC with countless other members of Sweden’s political establishment, Ljunggren said that Swedes care so much about US elections in part because they perceive themselves as sharing the same cultural landscape as Americans.

“We all know English and there are so many American programmes on television,” he explained.

“Once you pass a certain threshold of knowledge, your interest sort of takes on a life of its own.”

But while Swedes have a history of keeping an eye on US politics, Ljunggren said that the country has paid particularly close attention to the 2008 campaign for a variety of reasons.

“Swedes were very surprised when [John] Kerry lost in 2004, but they learned something from it,” he said, explaining that the experience taught people not to confuse expectations with reality when it comes to US politics.

In the intervening years the Swedish press and Swedes in general have worked hard at becoming better educated about what drives US politics, Ljunggren said, with the 2008 election being something of a final exam for what they’ve learned.

“This time it won’t only be Swedes who are surprised if Obama loses, as everyone I talk to here in the US also expects him to win,” said Ljunggren.

“There are echoes of Kennedy…people are seeing the dawn of a new era," he added.

Ljunggren will participate in an election night programme, Race to the White House, to be broadcast on Sweden's Kanal 5 and featuring off beat 30-something comedians Fredrik Wikingsson and Filip Hammar, commonly known as Filip and Fredrik.

The show marks the first time a Swedish humour programme will broadcast live during a US election, a phenomenon Ljunggren also attributes to the youthful Obama.

"If it weren't for Obama, I don't think the show would have happened," he said.

David Landes(david.landes@thelocal.se)