Swedish general election, 2018
All 349 seats to the Riksdag
175 seats are needed for a majority
Largest party by district (left) and municipality (right) Red – Social Democratic, Blue – Moderate, Yellow – Sweden Democrats
General elections were held in Sweden on Sunday 9 September 2018 to elect the 349 members of the Riksdag. They in turn will elect the Prime Minister of Sweden. Regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day.
The incumbent red-green coalition (the Social Democrats and Greens government and its backing Left party) won 144 seats, which was 1 seat more than the Alliance coalition but, just as in the previous general election, short of a majority.
The Social Democrats' vote share fell to 28.3 percent, its lowest level of support since 1911, although the main opposition Moderates lost even more support. The far-right Sweden Democrats made gains, though less than anticipated.
- 1 Context
- 2 Campaign issues
- 3 Contesting parties
- 4 Electoral system
- 5 Parties
- 6 Opinion polls
- 7 Results
- 8 Analysis
- 9 Government formation
- 10 See also
- 11 References
2014 budget crisis
Just two months after having formed a minority government, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on the afternoon of 3 December 2014 that he intended to make the formal arrangements for calling an extraordinary election on 29 December 2014 – the earliest date permitted by the constitution.
The election seemed to be necessary after Löfven's Social Democrat-led government lost a vote on the budget by 182 to 153, owing to the Sweden Democrats voting with the opposition, leading to a cabinet crisis. It would have been the first early election since 1958.
However, an agreement between the Social Democrats, Greens, Moderates, Centrists, Liberals and Christian Democrats was signed on 26 December 2014, outlining a series of conditions in order to ensure political stability until at least 2022. The agreement included two main provisions:
- The candidate for Prime Minister who gathered the most support would be elected. This would apply to both incumbent and new candidates for PM.
- A government in minority would be allowed to have its budget passed, by the abstention of opposition parties who had signed the agreement.
After negotiations between the Government and the Alliance for Sweden concluded, the snap election was called off on 27 December 2014. On 9 October 2015, following the Christian Democrats' departure from the agreement, the December 2014 agreement was dissolved. However, the Moderates, Centrists and Liberals allowed the Social Democrats minority government to continue to govern.
In May 2018, the issues that the Swedish voters considered most important were immigration, healthcare and integration. In the days leading up to the election, the most important issue was the environment, followed by immigration and health care. With the polls showing that the Sweden Democrats could be kingmakers there was speculation over possible government coalitions.
The summer of 2018 saw a rise in violent crime in Sweden; several incidents, including the arson of over 100 cars on 15 August, have caused 10% Swedes to say that "law and order" is the key issue in the upcoming election. While Sweden has faced sporadic gang violence in recent years at the end of summer break for students, violence in Gothenburg, Falkenberg and Trollhättan was said to be on a larger scale. Prime Minister Löfven referred to the August violence as if it was organized "almost like a military operation". In the following days, Twitter accounts connected to Russia tweeted about the fires, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy intended to influence English-language readers. Non-Swedish media frequently emphasize the events in order to tell a story of a society in decay, along with some negative but restricted reporting around immigration, to describe great gains by the Sweden Democrats; this has been criticized as a "false narrative" and "misreporting" by domestic media.
The Social Democratic Party (S; Socialdemokraterna) is the largest political party in the Swedish Riksdag, with 113 of the 349 seats. It is the major component of the incumbent Löfven Cabinet, in which it works with the Green Party. Its current leader Stefan Löfven has been Prime Minister of Sweden since 3 October 2014, and has said he will seek a mandate to continue his Löfven Cabinet.
The Moderate Party (M; Moderaterna) is the second-largest party in the Riksdag with 84 seats. It was the largest governing party under Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt from 2006 to 2014. The party is involved alongside three other parties in the Alliance; all four will seek to return to power together. Reinfeldt resigned as party leader after eight years as Prime Minister, and was succeeded as leader by Anna Kinberg Batra on 10 January 2015. Kinberg Batra's decision as de facto leader to enter the budgetary procedure agreement with the left-of-centre cabinet saw sharp disgruntlement from some party districts. The Alliance has more MPs than the government parties, but still finds itself in opposition. Owing to her low opinion polling numbers, Kinberg Batra faced internal pressure from multiple party districts and the Moderate Youth League to resign. She announced her resignation in a morning press conference on 25 August 2017. Former prime minister and Moderate Party leader Carl Bildt was suggested as a replacement after Kinberg Batra resigned; however, despite some party districts supporting his candidacy, he declined the offer. Ultimately, Ulf Kristersson was elected to succeed Kinberg Batra as party leader, during an extra Moderate party conference on 1 October 2017.
The Sweden Democrats (SD; Sverigedemokraterna) is the third-largest party in the Riksdag with 49 seats. In the 2014 general election the party increased its number of seats by 29, becoming the third-largest party. Its leader is Jimmie Åkesson, who is the longest-serving party leader. The other Riksdag parties have repeatedly stated that they will not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats in a future government. An extra general election was called after the Sweden Democrats gave its support to the oppositional Alliance budget (see section '2014 budget crisis'). After the proposed extra election was cancelled, the party advertised itself as the 'only opposition party' and in the following months it saw a sharp rise in support (see section 'Opinion polls').
The Green Party (MP; Miljöpartiet) is the fourth-largest party in the Riksdag with 25 seats. The Green Party is the minor component of the Löfven Cabinet, alongside the Social Democrats. It is the only Swedish party to have two spokespersons, currently Gustav Fridolin (since 2011) who serves as Minister for Education, and Isabella Lövin (since 2016) who serves as Minister for International Development Cooperation. This will be the first time in Swedish history that the Green Party has had its governmental record tested at an election.
The Centre Party (C; Centerpartiet) is the fifth-largest party in the Riksdag with 22 seats. It was a part of the Reinfeldt cabinet from 2006 to 2014, and is involved in the Alliance. The Centre Party has been led by Annie Lööf since 2011. It was subject to public attempts by Löfven to become a cooperation party, but the party traditionally leans towards the Moderate policy positions and stayed within the Alliance after the 2014 election.
The Left Party (V; Vänsterpartiet) is the sixth-largest party in the Riksdag with 21 seats. Its current leader is Jonas Sjöstedt. He has said that the party seeks to participate in a future Red-Green coalition government. The Left Party did not support the Löfven Cabinet because it was not asked to participate in that cabinet following the 2014 general election, but supported its budget that was voted down on 3 December 2014. Following the budgetary agreement, the Left Party is what tips the left-of-centre minority into a larger minority than the Alliance.
The Liberals (L; Liberalerna) is the seventh-largest party in the Riksdag with 19 seats. It was a part of the Reinfeldt cabinet from 2006 to 2014, and is involved in the Alliance. The Liberals have been led by Jan Björklund since 2007; his leadership is being increasingly criticized within the party. Opinion polls in the year after the 2014 election suggested that the party was struggling to recapture its previous level of support. Having been in charge of the school system and integration of migrants, it came under a lot of criticism owing to falling school results and increased segregation in the immigrant-dominated suburbs.
The Christian Democrats (KD; Kristdemokraterna) has been led by Ebba Busch Thor since 2015. It is involved in the Alliance. Despite polling below the 4% electoral threshold for most of the time between the elections, the party saw a boost in support in the time period immediately prior to the election, guaranteeing its presence in the Riksdag (which was seen as essential in order for the Alliance to be able to form a government.). The party held on by a few tens of thousands of votes last time.
Parties with less than 4% of the vote do not get any seat in the Riksdag.
Feminist Initiative (FI; Feministiskt Initiativ) led by former Left Party leader Gudrun Schyman, is the country's ninth-largest party, and is represented in the European Parliament following the 2014 European election. The party received 0.4% of the vote in the election, compared to 3% in the previous election 2014.
The Pirate Party (PP; Piratpartiet) won representation in the 2009–14 European Parliament but its subsequent runs for office have been less successful. It has been mentioned in some polls as the tenth-largest party, but appears to be far from having a chance to break the threshold at a domestic level.
The Alternative for Sweden (Alternativ för Sverige) is a party with currently no representation in the Riksdag. It was formed from members expelled from the Sweden Democrats in 2015, and is led by Gustav Kasselstrand. The party failed to enter the Riksdag in this election.
The Swedish Riksdag is made up of 349 MPs, and all are elected through open list proportional representation on multi-member party lists that are either regional (most major parties) or national (Sweden Democrats). Each of the 29 constituencies has a set number of parliamentarians that is divided through constituency results to ensure regional representation. The other MPs are then elected through a proportional balancing, to ensure that the numbers of elected MPs for the various parties accurately represent the votes of the electorate. The Swedish constitution (Regeringsformen) 1 Ch. 4 § says that the Riksdag is responsible for taxation and making laws, and 1 Ch. 6 § says that the government is held responsible to the Riksdag. This means that Sweden has parliamentarism in a constitutional monarchy—ensuring that the government is responsible to the people's representatives. A minimum of 4% of the national vote is required for a party to enter the Riksdag, alternatively 12% or more within a constituency.
Vote secrecy and party-specific ballots
Election officials are responsible for party-specific ballot papers being present in the voting places for parties that have obtained more than one percent of the votes in the previous parliamentary election. If there is no access to the wanted party-specific ballot paper, a voter may cast a vote by writing in the party name of choice on a blank ballot paper. The voter generally chooses a party-specific ballot in the open and only then marks the ballot they chose in the voting booth.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights sent an election expert team of two members to the 2018 general election to examine and assess this system, including in relation to questions of the secrecy of the ballot. The observers are to issue a report eight weeks after the election was held.
Michael Aastrup Jensen, a Liberal Party member of the Danish Parliament, observed the Swedish election in Malmö. He stated that, having observed many elections, including some in Russia and Eastern Europe, he had never seen one nearly as undemocratic as in Sweden, and that the Swedish process was far from what would be allowed even in Eastern European countries. He considered that one problem was the presence of "party soldiers" standing outside the door of the election room, pressing the voters and trying to give them the ballots of their party. There is a bill under consideration by the Riksdag to strengthen ballot secrecy, but Jensen stated that it would not get rid of the party soldiers. Jensen is the chairman of the Danish delegation to the Council of Europe, and he promised to raise the issue there. The neo-nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement was reported shouting slogans and filming voters in several election rooms.
There were reports of missing party-specific ballots in some voting districts during the early voting phase. On the election day, the Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Television reported that the ballots of the Sweden Democrats were missing for 2 hours in one Gothenburg district.
The table below lists parties' 2014 representation in the Riksdag.
|S||Swedish Social Democratic Party
|Social democracy||Stefan Löfven||31.0%|
113 / 349
|Liberal conservatism||Ulf Kristersson||23.3%|
84 / 349
49 / 349
|Green politics||Isabella Lövin
25 / 349
22 / 349
21 / 349
19 / 349
|Christian democracy||Ebba Busch Thor||4.6%|
16 / 349
|Social Democratic Party||S||1,830,386||28.26||100||−13|
|Alternative for Sweden||AfS||20,290||0.31||0||New|
|Christian Values Party||KrVP||3,202||0.05||0||±0|
|Nordic Resistance Movement||NMR||2,106||0.03||0||New|
|Communist Party of Sweden||SKP||702||0.01||0||±0|
|Basic Income Party||632||0.01||0||New|
|Libertarian Freedom Party||FRP||53||0.00||0||New|
|European Workers Party||EAP||52||0.00||0||±0|
|Common Sense in Sweden||CSIS||21||0.00||0||New|
|Our Country – Sweden||9||0.00||0||New|
|Reformist Neutral Party||RNP||4||0.00||0||±0|
|People's Home Sweden||2||0.00||0||New|
|Parties not on the ballot||588||0.01||0||–|
|The Alliance (M+C+L+KD)||2,607,222||40.26||143||+2|
|Sweden Democrats (SD)||1,135,627||17.53||62||+13|
Numerous media sources noted the gains made by the Sweden Democrats, tying those gains to the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties across Europe. However, it was noted that the party did not grow as much as some polls had predicted. While the Social Democrats performed better than expected, the party still saw its worst result since 1908. According to The Guardian, the growth of the SD "upended perhaps western Europe’s most stable political order," and other commentators made similar statements. According to Emily Schultheis of Foreign Policy, the SD won an ideological victory, as it "effectively set the terms for debate" and forced its rivals to adopt immigration policies similar to its own, and other reporters made similar observations.
The Sweden Democrats performed particularly well in Skåne County, having the highest number of voters in 21 out of the county's 33 municipalities. SVT also found that at least 22 seats in 17 city councils would be empty as the Sweden Democrats won more seats than the number of candidates it had. Despite the Social Democrats' worst result nationwide in decades, they overtook the Moderates in the latter's traditional stronghold of Stockholm city. Additionally, the Social Democrats and the Left Party saw an increase in the number of votes cast in that constituency while the Moderates lost votes; consequently, the Red-Green bloc also overtook the Alliance in the constituency.
The election resulted in a hung parliament, with the centre-left and centre-right factions each holding about 40% of the seats, and the Sweden Democrats holding the remainder. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stated he would not step down after the results came in, though Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson called on him to do just that.
Before and immediately after the election, all the other parties ruled out a coalition with the Sweden Democrats. The Social Democrats stated they wanted to continue working with the Greens in their coalition and they favored the S-MP-C-L coalition (167 seats) supported by V (bringing the total number of pro-government MPs up to 195), to avoid working with their main opponents, the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats. The Moderates and Liberals both wanted to create a M-C-KD-L government (143 seats, which is 32 short of a majority). During election debates, the Sweden Democrats had stated they were willing to support only an Alliance government in exchange for concessions, and they have said that they want to work with The Alliance to bring down the possibility of another Red-Green government. On the other hand, The party secretary of The Left, Aron Etzler, said his party is interested in participating only in a Red-Green government.
On 12 September, the Social Democrats were invited by Alliance members to discuss a possibility of forming an Alliance government that would rely on support from the Social Democrats.
- see also Basic Laws of Sweden#Instrument of Government
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