On Sunday, 11 September the Swedish electorate went to the polls to elect a new Riksdag. Prime Minister Magdelena Andersson’s centre-left Swedish Social Democratic Party was again the largest party elected, with the far-right party Sweden Democrats, led by Jimmie Åkesson, becoming the second largest party. This Just the Facts examines elections in Sweden, the parliamentary campaign and the results of the 2022 election.
Elections in Sweden
Sweden is a parliamentary representative democracy with a constitutional monarchy. King Carl XVI Gustaf is Sweden’s non-political head of state, a role which is largely ceremonial. In its unicameral political system, Sweden has a single parliamentary chamber called the Riksdag.
Elections to the Riksdag are held on the second Sunday of September every four years. Municipal and regional elections are also held on the same day. Around seven million people are eligible to vote in Sweden’s general elections, which consists of all Swedish citizens aged eighteen or over who are, or previously have been, residents of Sweden.
The Riksdag consists of 349 riksdagsledamöter who are elected by a system of proportional representation from 29 constituencies. In Swedish elections, there is a ‘threshold rule’ which limits the number of small parties in parliament: a party must gain at least 4% of the entire vote to be eligible for seats in the Riksdag or at least 12% of the vote in a single constituency.
Once the results of the election have been confirmed by the Election Authority and the seats have been allocated, the members of the Riksdag will elect a Speaker. It is the Speaker’s responsibility to meet with representatives from each of the parties and prepare a proposal for a new prime minister. Members of the Riksdag will then vote on the proposal, and the winning candidate must secure the support of at least 175 members. The new prime minister in turn appoints ministers to form a government.
Sweden’s political system is known for being stable. However, Stefan Löfven, who became Prime Minister in October 2014 and led a coalition government between his own Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, had to resign in January 2021 after becoming the first Swedish Prime Minister to have a proposal rejected by the majority of the Riksdag. His colleague, Magdelena Andersson was appointed Prime Minister in November 2021 and formed a one-party minority government.
2022 Campaign Issues
One of the dominant themes of the 2022 election campaign has been the issue of residential segregation. Socially vulnerable housing developments on the outskirts of Swedish cities, which are mostly inhabited by immigrants and asylum seekers, have become associated with high levels of organised crime and gang violence.
The Social Democrats and the Moderate Party made tackling segregation and gang violence some of their key priorities. The far-right Sweden Democrats, who made significant gains in the 2018 general election standing on an anti-immigration ticket, campaigned on a similar platform this year. They proposed some of the strictest immigration legislation possible within the EU’s asylum and migration frameworks.
Additionally, welfare reform emerged as a priority for parties. The Social Democrat’s campaign focused on ‘taking back democratic control of the welfare system’. The Moderate Party outlined their plans to tackle dependence on state contributions, whilst the Sweden Democrats called for a ‘Swedish welfare system for Swedish citizens’, arguing that migrants should not be entitled to support from the state until they are employed.
Other issues that gained traction throughout the course of the campaign include the rising cost of living, the growing energy crisis and the importance of the green transition. The election has also taken place following Sweden’s decision to join NATO after more than 200 years of military nonalignment, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
2022 Election Results
Magdelena Andersson’s Social Democrats remains the largest party in the Riksdag, having increased its number of seats from 100 to 107, with the Swedish Democrats gaining 11 seats, bringing their total to 73 and making them the second largest party. While the Moderate Party came third with 68 seats, a loss of three.
Despite winning the most seats, Magdalena Andersson announced on Wednesday, 14 September that she will step down as prime minister, as the centre-left block of parties her party is part of does not have enough seats to ensure a majority.
The right-wing block of parties, including the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party had all indicated before the general election that they would rely on support from the Sweden Democrats to form a minority government. However, they had stated that “they were unwilling to formally bring the party into government and allocate it ministerial portfolios”.
With the right-wing bloc holding a two-seat lead over the left-wing bloc, “the new government could face an equally tenuous arrangement” similar to the “weak” and “strained” minority government under the Swedish Social Democratic Party after the 2018 general election.
Sweden takes over the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU in January 2023.
Results of the 2022 Swedish General Elections
|Party||European Parliament Group||2018||2022||Seat Change|
|Swedish Social Democratic Party||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament||100||107||+7|
|Sweden Democrats||European Conservatives and Reformists Group||62||73||+11|
|Moderate Party||European People’s Party||70||68||-2|
|Left Party||The Left Group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL||28||24||-4|
|Centre Party||Renew Europe Group||31||24||-7|
|Christian Democratic Party||European People’s Party||22||19||-3|
|Green Party||Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance||16||18||+2|
|Liberal Party||Renew Europe Group||20||16||-4|