Tomorrow Sweden votes in its general election in a contest which has been seen as another gauge of the popularity of right-wing populism in Europe. Here’s a guide of everything you need to know.
What are Swedes voting for?
Swedish voters are electing members of their parliament, the Riksdag. 349 MPs make up the parliament, which are distributed proportionally by national vote share. Sweden has 29 constituencies, with multiple MPs elected from each one. The number of MPs a constituency has is based on each one’s population. Parties are required to achieve at least four percent of the national vote to enter parliament.
What are the parties running for election?
Eight parties which are currently represented in parliament are contesting the election, along with a handful of other smaller parties.
Most of the parties are aligned to one of the country’s two political blocs. On the left, there is the current governing coalition, made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party. On the right, there is the Alliance, made up of four centre-right parties; the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.
The Social Democrats are the oldest and currently the largest party in the Riksdag and lead the current governing coalition. The party supports equality for all, and supports feminist and pro-LGBTQ+ policies, advocates further environmental protection, promotes workers’ rights and calls for further integration with the European Union. The party is led by Stefan Löfven, who used to lead one of the country’s most powerful trade unions. The Social Democrats have been the largest party, in terms of number of votes, for over a century.
The Moderate Party is the main opposition party and leads the centre-right Alliance group. They support small government, cutting taxes and immigration but in smaller numbers. The Party last formed a government in 2006, which served two terms before losing elections in 2014. Ulf Kristersson, a former Minister of Social Security from 2010-2014, is the current leader.
The Sweden Democrats are a right/far-right anti-immigration party and currently have the third largest number of seats in the Riksdag. The party was founded in 1988, emerging from far-right and neo-Nazi groups in Sweden. Although the party has worked to tone down its extremist image, it still opposes immigration. The party also advocates for a referendum on leaving the European Union, supports traditional families and disagrees with scientific consensus on global warming. Jimmie Åkesson leads the party, after joining the party as a teenager.
The Green Party are the Social Democrats junior coalition partners, having entered government for the first time in 2014. As the name suggests, the party is focused on tackling climate change, greater support for the welfare state, further EU integration and supports LGBTQ+ and feminist policies. Although the party has no official leader, there are two spokespeople who represent the party; Gustav Fridolin, who was the youngest member of parliament when elected in 2002 (aged 19), and Isabella Lövin, a former journalist.
The Left Party are the most left-wing party represented in the Swedish parliament and used describe themselves as communist until the 1990s. The party is opposed to privatisation of public services, is eurosceptic and supports taxing the wealthy to fund the welfare state. The party is currently run by Jonas Sjöstedt, a former mental health worker and journalist.
The Centre Party is also a member of the Alliance and emerged out of the rural-focused Sweden Farmers’ League. They are against the use of nuclear energy, pro-free market, and have promised greater help for small businesses. In-fighting within the party over the possibility of the Sweden Democrats joining the Alliance in a governing coalition has led to speculation that they may leave the bloc and join the centre-left group. The Centre Party are led by Annie Lööf, a former lawyer and former Minister for Enterprise.
The Liberals are also part of the centre-right Alliance group and are focused on improving education, expanding Sweden’s nuclear energy usage and joining the NATO alliance. Up until 2015, the party was known as the People’s Party. Currently, the party is run by Jan Björklund, a former major in the Swedish army.
The Christian Democrats are the smallest party in the Alliance and, as the name suggests, the party has traditionally supported Christian values. However, attempts to move away from their religious roots to gain greater support have struggled to make an impact. They support greater support for the elderly, lowering taxes to promote growth and reduce unemployment and a tough stance on extremism. The party is led by Ebba Busch Thor, the youngest leader of any of the political parties, who has been leader since 2015.
Other minor parties running for election include the Feminist Initiative (a left-wing party which supports gender equality), the Pirate Party (a party that supports rights to privacy online and in everyday life), the Alternative for Sweden (a far-right party that split from the Swedish Democrats, calling for the repatriation of immigrants) and the Nordic Resistance Movement (a neo-Nazi party that has been banned in Finland).
What issues have dominated the election?
A YouGov poll conducted last month showed that healthcare and immigration are on top of people’s minds as they go to the polls. Immigration, in particular, has been prevalent in debates this election due to the rise of the Sweden Democrats. An eruption of violent crime over the summer, including the arson of over 100 cars, has also caused many to see crime as a major issue in this year’s election.
Who will win the election?
Most recent polls suggest the Social Democrats will retain their title as the largest party in Sweden, but with a reduction in seats. Meanwhile, there is a close race for second place between the current main opposition party, the Moderates, and the far-right populist Sweden Democrats.
The current governing coalition is currently polling less than 30%, with the Alliance on 37.6%. As a result, it looks incredibly unlikely that either bloc will achieve a majority government.
A continuation of the current left-wing administration would require the Left Party’s support, probably in a more formal agreement than in past confidence-and-supply arrangements. However, their previous hesitance to enter a coalition could rule this possibility out.
A minority Alliance government could be possible if the Sweden Democrats don’t vote down their administration. Potentially, a confidence-and-supply deal could be reached with the party, but that could send the Centre Party out of the arrangement, as they have previously ruled out working with the far-right party.
If the Centre Party do abandon the Alliance, they could join the centre-left in a broad coalition arrangement with the Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Greens, but the varying different views on major policies could see this fall apart.
If both sides refuse to work with the Sweden Democrats, Sweden could opt to follow Germany’s lead and form a grand coalition. The leaders of both main parties have ruled such an arrangement out, but electoral maths may force them into such a deal. However, even this would only see the coalition hold 42% of seats in parliament, and a third partner (maybe the Centre Party) would need to be sought.