Politics of Sweden

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The politics of Sweden take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy. Executive power is exercised by the government, led by the prime minister of Sweden. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament, elected within a multi-party system. The judiciary is independent, appointed by the government and employed until retirement. Sweden is formally a monarchy with a monarch holding symbolic power.


Sweden has a typical Western European history of democracy, beginning with the old Viking age Ting electing kings, ending with a hereditary royal power in the 14th century, that in periods became more or less democratic depending on the general European trends. The current democratic regime is a product of a stable development of successively added democratic institutions introduced during the 19th century up to 1921, when women's suffrage was introduced. The Government of Sweden has adhered to parliamentarismde jure since 1975, de facto since 1917.

Since the Great Depression, Swedish national politics has largely been dominated by the Social Democratic Workers' Party, which has held a plurality (and sometimes a majority) in the Swedish parliament since 1917. General elections are held every four years.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Sweden a "full democracy" its report for 2020. [1] Sweden is also ranked a liberal democracy by the V-Dem Institute (2021) [2] and scores 40/40 for protection of political rights according to Freedom House (2020). [3]


The Constitution of Sweden consists of four fundamental laws. The most important is the Instrument of Government of 1974 which sets out the basic principles of political life in Sweden, defining rights and freedoms. The Act of Succession is a treaty between the old Riksdag of the Estates and House of Bernadotte regulating their rights to accede to the Swedish throne. The constitution differs from most other Western countries in aspects such as having a unicameral parliament, limited municipal autonomy, and the lack of a supreme court with power to overturn legislature. Instead of checks and balances the executive power is entrusted to the politicians.

The four fundamental laws are:


Executive branch

Head of government

The prime minister of Sweden is nominated by the speaker of the Riksdag and elected through negative parliamentarism. In practice, this means that the prime minister nominee is confirmed if fewer than 175 members of parliament vote 'no', regardless of the number of 'yes' votes or abstentions. [5]

Following a lengthy government formation process as a result of the general election held on 9 September 2018, Stefan Löfven of the Swedish Social Democratic Party was re-elected prime minister of Sweden for a second term by the new parliament on 18 January 2019, after initially being ousted by parliament. Together with the Green Party, Löfven presided over a minority government which relied on confidence and supply from the Centre Party and Liberals.

The deputy prime minister was Isabella Lövin of the Green Party. [6]

In August 2021, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced his resignation and Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was elected as the new head of Sweden's ruling Social Democrats in November 2021. [7] On 30 November 2021, Magdalena Andersson became Sweden's first female prime minister. She formed a minority government made up of only her Social Democrats. Her plan for forming a new coalition government with the Green Party was unsuccessful because her budget proposal failed to pass. [8] [9]

On 18 October 2022, Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party became the new Prime Minister of Sweden. [10] Kristersson's Moderates formed a centre-right coalition with the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. The new government is backed by the biggest right-wing party, Sweden Democrats (SD) led by Jimmie Åkesson, with tougher immigration policies being a crucial part of a policy deal with the SD. [11]


The highest executive authority of the state is vested in the government, which consists of a prime minister and roughly 22 ministers who head the ministries. The ministers are appointed at the sole discretion of the prime minister. The prime minister is nominated by the speaker and appointed following a vote in the Riksdag itself. The monarch plays no part in this process. The only way to oust a government is through a motion of no confidence (misstroendevotum) in the Riksdag. This motion must get a majority of the total number of votes in the Riksdag (at least 175). Another example of the power the legislature has given the government is the adoption of the budget in the Riksdag. The government's proposition to budget is adopted, unless a majority of the members of the Riksdag vote against it. This is to make it possible to govern even in minority.

The main functions of the government are to:

Legislative branch

The unicameral Riksdag has 349 members, popularly elected every four years. It is in session generally from September through mid-June.

The Riksdag in Stockholm Riksdagen June 2011.jpg
The Riksdag in Stockholm
Inside the Riksdag Riksdag assembly hall 2006.jpg
Inside the Riksdag

Legislation may be initiated by the Cabinet or by members of the Riksdag. Members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term. The Riksdag can alter the Constitution of Sweden, but only with approval by a supermajority and confirmation after the following general elections.

The Swedish Social Democratic Party has played a leading political role since 1917, after Reformists confirmed their strength and the revolutionaries left the party. After 1932, the Cabinets have been dominated by the Social Democrats. Only five general elections (1976, 1979, 1991, 2006 and 2010) have given the centre-right bloc enough seats in the Riksdag to form a government. This is considered one reason for the Swedish post-war welfare state, with a government expenditure of slightly more than 50% of the gross domestic product.

Political parties and elections

A general election is held alongside local and regional elections every four years. The last election was held on 11 September 2022. [13]


Swedish law, drawing on Germanic, Roman, and Anglo-American law, is neither as codified as in France and other countries influenced by the Napoleonic Code, nor as dependent on judicial practice and precedents as in the United States.

Government agencies

Government policy is carried out by the administrative authorities (förvaltningsmyndigheter) and government agencies of Sweden. These bodies are state-controlled and are formally headed by government-appointed directors-general but act independently from the executive and legislative branches of government. Ministerial governance (ministerstyre) is illegal; in accordance with 2 §, chapter 12 of the Instrument of Government, no member of the Riksdag or government may interfere in the day-to-day operation of an agency, nor in the outcome of individual cases.


Sweden has a history of strong political involvement by ordinary people through its "popular movements" (folkrörelser), the most notable being trade unions, the women's movement, the temperance movement, and – more recently – sports movement. Election turnout in Sweden has always been high in international comparisons, although it has declined in recent decades, and is around 87%, (87.18% in the general election of 2018).

Some Swedish political figures that have become known worldwide include Joe Hill, Carl Skoglund, Raoul Wallenberg, Folke Bernadotte, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olof Palme, Carl Bildt, Hans Blix, and Anna Lindh.

According to a survey investigation by the sociologist Jenny Hansson, [15] Swedish national parliamentarians have an average work week of 66 hours, including side responsibilities. Hansson's investigation further reports that the average Swedish national parliamentarian sleeps 6.5 hours per night.

Administrative divisions

Sweden is divided into 21 counties. In each county there is a county administrative board and a county council. Each county contains several municipalities, in total 290. Stockholm is the capital of Sweden. The king, the Riksdag and the government have their permanent seat in Stockholm. Up to 1968 when the Overgovernor's Office was incorporated into Stockholm County, it had a special status.

As of the 1974 constitutional revision, the number of municipal divisions was reduced from several thousand to 290, while also removing previous functions of the municipal governments (such as local laws, local law enforcement, and more).

Energy politics

After the 1973 oil crisis, the energy politics were determined to become less dependent on the import of petroleum. Since then, electricity has been generated mostly from hydropower and nuclear power. Sweden wants to be independent of petroleum use by 2020. The Three Mile Island accident (United States) prompted the Swedish parliament in 1980 after a referendum to decide that no further nuclear power plants should be built and that a nuclear power phase-out should be completed by 2010. Following the recommendation of the 1980 referendum, two nuclear power reactors were closed by government decision in 1999 and 2005, respectively. However, in February 2009, the Swedish centre-right wing government announced that new nuclear power stations may be constructed if they replace old ones, thus ending the previous de facto phase out policy. [16]

As of 2005, the use of renewables amounted to 26% of the energy supply in Sweden, most important being hydropower and biomass. In 2003, electricity from hydropower accounted for 53 TWh and 40% of the country's production of electricity with nuclear power delivering 65 TWh (49%). At the same time, the use of biofuels, peat etc. produced 13 TWh of electricity. [17] Sweden was the highest ranked country in the Climate Change Performance Index until 2022, when it was displaced by Denmark. [18]

In March 2005, an opinion poll showed that 83% supported maintaining or increasing nuclear power. [19] Since then however, reports about radioactive leakages at a nuclear waste store in Forsmark, Sweden, have been published. [20] This does not seem to have changed the public support of continued use of nuclear power.

Foreign relations

Throughout the 20th century, Swedish foreign policy was based on the principle of non-alignment in peacetime, neutrality in wartime. This principle has often been criticised in Sweden, allegedly being a facade, claiming that the Swedish government had an advanced collaboration with western countries within NATO.

During Cold War era politics, Sweden was not under the Warsaw Pact and received only minimal aid from the Marshall Plan. In 1952, a Swedish DC-3 was shot down over the Baltic Sea while gathering reconnaissance. It was later revealed that the plane had been shot down by the Soviet Union. Another plane, a Catalina search and rescue craft, was sent out a few days later and shot down by Soviets warplanes as well. [21]

Sweden is also very active in international peace efforts, especially through the United Nations, and in support to the Third World.[ citation needed ]

In 1995 Sweden, together with Finland and Austria, joined the European Union which extended the number of member countries from 12 to 15. Membership and its issues are among the most important questions in Swedish politics. Apart from the European Union, Sweden is also an active member of the United Nations and several other organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and International Monetary Fund.

In May 2022, Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance. The public opinion in the Nordic region had changed in favour of joining NATO since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. [22]

Soon after his appointment in October 2022, new foreign minister, Tobias Billström, announced that Sweden will renounce "feminist foreign policy", implemented by the previous left-wing government. [23]

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Riksdag</span> Supreme legislative body of Sweden

The Riksdag is the legislature and the supreme decision-making body of Sweden. Since 1971, the Riksdag has been a unicameral legislature with 349 members, elected proportionally and serving, since 1994, fixed four-year terms. The 2022 Swedish general election is the most recent general election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Moderate Party</span> Political party in Sweden

The Moderate Party, commonly referred to as the Moderates, is a liberal-conservative political party in Sweden. The party generally supports tax cuts, the free market, civil liberties and economic liberalism. Internationally, it is a full member of the International Democrat Union and the European People's Party.

The Liberals, previously known as the Liberal People's Party until 22 November 2015, is a conservative liberal political party in Sweden. The Liberals ideologically have shown a broad variety of liberal tendencies. Currently they are seen as following classical liberalism and economic liberalism. The party is a member of the Liberal International and Renew Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ulf Kristersson</span> Prime Minister of Sweden since 2022

Ulf Hjalmar Ed Kristersson is a Swedish politician who has been serving as Prime Minister of Sweden since October 2022. He has been the leader of the Moderate Party (M) since October 2017 and a member of the Riksdag (MP) for Södermanland County since 2014 and for Stockholm County from 1991 to 2000. He previously served as Minister for Social Security from 2010 to 2014 and as Chairman of the Moderate Youth League from 1988 to 1992.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Sweden (1991–present)</span>

After a period of rapid growth and unprecedented prosperity during the late 1980s, by 1990 the Swedish economy overheated, and after a controversial bill freezing salaries and banning strikes failed in the Riksdag, the social democratic government led by Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson resigned in February 1990. At this time the respected Finance Minister Kjell-Olof Feldt left the government in protest over what he saw as irresponsible economic policies. Carlsson soon formed a new government, but by the time of the general election in September 1991 the economy was in free fall, and with rapidly rising unemployment, the social democrats received the smallest share of votes in sixty years (37.7%), resulting in the loss of office to the opposition, a centre-right coalition led by Carl Bildt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2018 Swedish general election</span>

General elections were held in Sweden on 9 September 2018 to elect the 349 members of the Riksdag. Regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day. The incumbent minority government, consisting of the Social Democrats and the Greens and supported by the Left Party, won 144 seats, one seat more than the four-party Alliance coalition, with the Sweden Democrats winning the remaining 62 seats. The Social Democrats' vote share fell to 28.3 percent, its lowest level of support since 1911.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 Swedish general election</span>

General elections were held in Sweden on 14 September 2014 to elect all 349 seats in the Riksdag, alongside elections for the 21 county councils, and 290 municipal assemblies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stefan Löfven</span> Prime Minister of Sweden from 2014 to 2021

Kjell Stefan Löfven is a Swedish politician who has served as the President of European Socialists since October 2022. He previously served as Prime Minister of Sweden from October 2014 to November 2021 and leader of the Social Democratic Party from 2012 to 2021.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Magdalena Andersson</span> Prime Minister of Sweden from 2021 to 2022

Eva Magdalena Andersson is a Swedish politician and economist who has served as Leader of the Opposition since October 2022 and Leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party since 2021. She has served as a Member of the Riksdag for Stockholm County since 2014. She previously served as Prime Minister of Sweden from November 2021 to October 2022, Minister for Finance from 2014 to 2021 and Chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee from 2020 to 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Löfven I Cabinet</span>

The first cabinet of Stefan Löfven was the cabinet of Sweden between 2014 and 2018. It was a coalition government, consisting of two parties: the Social Democrats and the Green Party. The cabinet was installed on 3 October 2014, following the 2014 general election. It lost a vote of no confidence following the 2018 election, but remained in office as a caretaker government. Löfven was reelected as Prime Minister in January 2019, thus forming the second cabinet of Stefan Löfven.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 Swedish government crisis</span>

The 2014 Swedish government crisis started on 3 December 2014 after the Riksdag rejected the proposed government budget in favour of a budget proposed by the centre-right opposition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2022 Swedish general election</span>

General elections were held in Sweden on 11 September 2022 to elect the 349 members of the Riksdag who in turn elected the Prime Minister of Sweden. Under the constitution, regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day. The preliminary results presented on 15 September showed the government parties lost their majority, which were confirmed by the final results published on 17 September. After a month of negotiations following the elections that led to the Tidö Agreement among the right-wing bloc, Moderate Party (M) leader Ulf Kristersson was elected Prime Minister on 17 October. The Kristersson Cabinet is a minority government that relies on confidence and supply from the Sweden Democrats (SD)

In the 2018 Swedish general election, no political group or party won an outright majority, resulting in a hung parliament. On 9 September, the Red-Greens, led by Stefan Löfven's Social Democrats (S), emerged as the main political force in the Riksdag, while the centre-right Alliance led by Ulf Kristersson's Moderate Party only got one seat less. The right-wing populist party Sweden Democrats, led by Jimmie Åkesson, came third. As a result, protracted negotiations were required before a new government formation. On 18 January 2019, Löfven was re-elected as prime minister.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Löfven II Cabinet</span>

The second cabinet of Stefan Löfven was the Government of Sweden from 21 January 2019 to 9 July 2021. It was a coalition, consisting of two parties: the Social Democrats and the Green Party. The cabinet was installed on 21 January 2019, following the 2018 general election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2021 Swedish government crisis</span> Government crisis in Sweden

A government crisis began on 21 June 2021 in Sweden after the Riksdag ousted Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with a no-confidence vote. This was the first time in Swedish history a Prime Minister was ousted by a no-confidence vote. After winning the 2014 Swedish general election, the Löfven II Cabinet's government budget was rejected by the Riksdag, causing a government crisis that lasted for nearly a month. The 2021 government crisis was the second government crisis suffered by a Löfven cabinet. The vote was called on 17 June 2021 by the Sweden Democrats after the Swedish Left Party withdrew support for Löfven over rent control reform, which is an important issue for many voters.

The third cabinet of Stefan Löfven was the Government of Sweden during 9 July 2021 to 30 November 2021. It was a coalition, consisting of two parties: the Social Democrats and the Green Party. The cabinet was installed on 9 July 2021, during a formal government meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf. The government was the result of the aftermath of the 2021 government crisis, which saw Löfven's government removed from power in a vote of no-confidence over proposed reforms to liberalize the rent control system.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tendered his resignation on 10 November 2021, leaving his government in place as a caretaker cabinet until a new Prime Minister is elected by the Riksdag. Government formation talks commenced the following day with Magdalena Andersson, the newly-elected head of the Social Democratic party offering to lead a government. She was formally nominated to form a government by the Speaker of the Riksdag, Andreas Norlén later the same day. It was the third government formation process since the 2018 general election, the first taking a record 144 days before the formation of Löfven's second cabinet. The process took place just ten months ahead of the 2022 general election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Andersson Cabinet</span> 56th Cabinet of Sweden

The Andersson Cabinet was the Government of Sweden following the resignation of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the hasty election of Magdalena Andersson as his successor. It was expected to be a coalition government consisting of two parties: the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Green Party. In a late turn of events after the confirmation vote, the Green Party left the government cooperation due to the government's budget proposal failing in the Riksdag. The cabinet were originally planned to be installed on 26 November 2021 during a formal government meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf, but Andersson decided to resign due to a precedent regarding changes in a government's composition; this happened just seven hours after the vote in the Riksdag. The Speaker then set Andersson up for a new confirmation vote to make sure she still had the Riksdag's approval.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tidö Agreement</span> 2022 Swedish political agreement

The Tidö Agreement is a political agreement of Riksdag parties from the right-wing bloc for appointing Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party as Prime Minister of Sweden and the Kristersson Cabinet as the Government of Sweden after the 2022 Swedish general election. The name Tidö Agreement comes from Tidö Castle in Västmanland, where the four party leaders negotiated the agreement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kristersson Cabinet</span> Incumbent government of Sweden

The Kristersson Cabinet is the 57th Government of Sweden and is formed by Ulf Kristersson, leader of Moderate Party. It is a coalition government consisting of three parties: the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats, and the Liberals. The cabinet works closely with the Sweden Democrats, in accordance with the Tidö Agreement backed by a majority in the Riksdag.


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Further reading