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Crash Course in Swedish Politics

Alexandra Andersson -

Anastasia Angeli -

It has begun. Bus stops, lampposts and billboards are covered with posters conveying messages from the left to the right. It is election year, and on the 11th of September millions of Swedes will go to make their voices heard. Both the left and right side see this election as crucial for Sweden’s future, so what is it all really about?

The 11th of September is the day. Around 6.5 million Swedish citizens are expected to use their right to vote, to influence how the 349 seats of the Swedish parliament Riksdagen are distributed. Then it is the Riksdag’s task to elect a prime minister, who will lead the new government. After the last election in 2018 this took 134 days, which by far was the longest government formation in Swedish history. The answer to why it took such a long time can probably be used to explain why many voices are raised for the importance of this election.

Who can participate in the election?

On the 11th of September, there is an election for the Riksdag, the counties (regioner) and the municipalities (kommuner) in Sweden. Only Swedish citizens can vote for the Riksdag, but for the counties and municipalities the law is different. If you are over 18 years old, a citizen of an EU country and have been registered in the county or municipality for at least 30 days before the election, you are allowed to vote. If you are not a citizen in an EU country but have been registered in Sweden for three years in a row and are registered in the county or municipality, you are also allowed to vote.

In recent years, the world has shifted towards a more polarized political landscape, and Sweden has not been spared. According to some Swedes it all started in 2010. That was when Sverigedemokraterna, a social conservative nationalist party, got into the Riksdag. Campaigning on radical ideas, they were isolated by the other seven parties in the parliament. In 2018 Sverigedemokraterna got 17.5 percent of the votes, making them Sweden’s third largest party, and they became hard to ignore.

In the same election, the liberal conservative party Moderaterna, together with Kristdemokraterna, Centerpartiet and Liberalerna, was aiming to form a center-right government, while Socialdemokraterna and the green party Miljöpartiet were hoping to stay in the government. However, none of the traditional alliances got enough votes to keep the two outer edge parties Sverigedemokraterna and the left party Vänsterpartiet away from influence. After 134 long days the social democrat party leader Stefan Löfven was elected prime minister and led a government with Miljöpartiet, supported by Centerpartiet, Liberalerna and Vänsterpartiet through a 73 items long agreement.

The 44th item on the list however caused a government crisis in July 2021, when Vänsterpartiet together with Sverigedemokraterna, Moderaterna and Kristdemokraterna voted to depose the prime minister, and Löfven became the first Swedish prime minister ever to resign after a declaration of no confidence. However, no one could propose another government tolerable by the Riksdag, so after intense negotiations Löfven was actually reelected, but only four months later resigned voluntarily. Socialdemokraterna’s Magdalena Andersson took his place, supported by Centerpartiet who did not want to cooperate with Vänsterpartiet, Miljöpartiet who would prefer not to cooperate with Centerpartiet, and Vänsterpartiet who wanted more influence if they accepted Andersson as prime minister.

The weak government conditions meant that the government did not have support for their budget, so a few hours after she was elected prime minister, Andersson lost the budget vote against the opposition. The revised budget only redistributed around 15-25 percent of the government’s budget, but it had been negotiated together with Sverigedemokraterna. Governing on a budget that had been influenced by the right-wing party was completely against Miljöpartiet’s principles, so they decided to leave the government. Due to the changed government conditions Andersson had to resign from the post only seven hours after she had been elected. A few days later she was accepted as Sweden’s first female prime minister for a second time.

Now that the election is only days away, many people hope that the result will change the locked positions in the Riksdag. Right now Socialdemokraterna’s confidence is higher than ever during this electoral period, but nothing can be taken for granted. On their side is Miljöpartiet, who in recent opinion surveys are below the 4% threshold to keep their place in the Riksdag, and Vänsterpartiet who claims that they will not accept to be treated as a doormat any longer. In the middle there is Centerpartiet who have accepted three social democrat prime ministers since 2018, even though they promised before that they would not. Now they are willing to cooperate with everyone except for Vänsterpartiet and Sverigedemokraterna, which are expected to secure more than 25 percent of the votes.

On the right side, there is Moderaterna and Kristdemokraterna, who have a strong cooperation, and Liberalerna, who first abandoned the right for Socialdemokraterna, then came back and now have been hovering below 4% for a long time. And then there is Sverigedemokraterna. The party that after over ten years of isolation has been invited to write debate articles, make budget motions and agreements with the rest of the right side, but at what cost? Moderaterna and Kristdemokraterna say that they do not want Sverigedemokraterna in their government, but Sverigedemokraterna want influence in accordance with the voting results.

This election might be seen as crucial for many parties and people, but looking at the current opinion surveys there is not much that has changed significantly since 2018. Two parties are hovering close to 4%, but nevertheless the left and right side collect about the same amount of votes, just like in 2018. But still the key to these locked positions is nowhere in sight, and the upcoming election might change everything, or nothing at all.

Publicerad: 2022-08-30

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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