MAYBE we should chalk it up to some sort of global warming trend. But Sweden, far up in the northern latitudes, has just experienced a late-summer burgeoning of Green foliage. The Greens Environment Party won enough support in Sunday's elections to cross the 4 percent threshold and enter parliament, the first new party to do so in some 70 years. But no less remarkable in this round of elections, probably the most interesting since the war, was that the Social Democrats did as well as they did.
They have ruled Sweden for most of the past half century. The tide in Europe, however, has been running in favor of more conservative politics. Moreover, the government of Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson has been troubled by an arms-sale scandal, the resignation of three justice ministers, and controversy over the still-unresolved assassination of former Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.
But the Social Democrats lost only a tiny share of the vote, and in alliance with the communists, will have an overall majority - 179 out of 349 seats.
The three center-right groups, meanwhile, had their worst showing in 40 years. Interestingly, the Greens picked up many of the votes the center-right lost.
Many Swedes will be hoping that the biggest winner will be the environment, however. Sweden has been prosperous enough not to feel it must choose between protecting the environment and protecting the economy. But the pollution-related deaths of 7,000 seals in the Baltic and North Seas, reports of global warming, and other such discussions have energized the public to demand even stronger environmental controls. The Social Democrats' record is not bad, but they are more closely allied to big business than leftist parties usually are. The turnout for the Greens was an implicit demand that the government control the pollution caused by pulp mills, for instance, and move away from the nuclear power on which Sweden so heavily depends.