The vote-winning machine defeated by his arrogance

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So total was Göran Persson's domination of Swedish politics over the past decade that his nickname, roughly translated, means "he who decides".

In office for longer than Tony Blair, Mr Persson was the EU's second-longest serving premier after Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Junker. And, as leader of the Swedish Social Democrats, he headed one of the most successful vote winning machines in modern political history.

To many - himself probably included - Mr Persson seemed invincible. But last night the 57-year-old premier fell victim to the old adage that all political careers end in failure.

Though the election was closely fought, it was becoming increasingly clear that Mr Persson's longevity was a liability. Not only was the Swedish electorate becoming bored of their Prime Minister, he had also gained a reputation for arrogance.

His government had been on the defensive since the tsunami 18 months ago when ministers were slated for their slow response to a catastrophe that took many Swedish lives.

And the young, media-friendly and centrist opposition leader,n Fredrik Reinfeldt, exploited the government's unpopularity.

The main campaign battleground was unemployment where Mr Reinfeldt promised more jobs and modest reform of the benefit system. Though Mr Persson tried to paint his challenger as a wrecker of Sweden's popular welfare state, it didn't wash. By refusing to discuss a coalition with his political allies on the left, Mr Persson handed an advantage to Mr Reinfeldt who had a deal with his centre-right allies.