Sweden is a country located in the region of Northern Europe. Since 2014, Sweden has a minority government consisting of the Social Democrats (S) and the Environment Party (MP). After the very smooth election in 2018, the government has support in Parliament by the Center Party and the Liberals. Government formation took a record time, only over four months after the election, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was able to re-form government.
For decades in Swedish national politics, there has been a clear dividing line between a left and a right bloc, where the side that has become the largest in the parliamentary elections could normally form a government. Since the 2010 election, however, the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) has a guardian role. Both the bourgeois government that could remain in 2010 and the red-green government formed after the 2014 elections were minority governments, without their own majority in the Riksdag. The 2018 elections consolidated the image of a more complicated parliamentary situation.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Sweden, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
In the 2014 election, SD more than doubled its mandate and became the third largest party in Parliament. All bourgeois parties backed in the election. Particularly large was the loss for the Moderates (M). The Prime Minister and M-leader Fredrik Reinfeldt already resigned on election night, from both positions. It caused a lot of criticism because many felt that he left the party without a leader at a politically shaky stage.
The new S-MP government’s position was weak. Although the Left Party (V) was a support party for the government in Parliament, the red-green parties lacked their own majority. Löfven made it clear early on that he hoped for support on individual issues, notably the Center Party (C) and the Liberals (L), but they were relatively dismissive.
The term of office began with a government crisis that was triggered when SD took advantage of his new position of strength: when the budget for 2015 was to be adopted, the party chose to vote on the bourgeois Alliance’s proposal, which thereby gained a majority. In practice, the S-led coalition government now faced either resigning or ruling with the opposition’s budget, after an attempt to renegotiate the budget with the bourgeois parties failed. The SD also clearly demonstrated its new position of power when the party announced that it intended to topple “every government and budget bill that supports increased immigration”.
The result was that Löfven announced that he would announce new elections. No such thing has been held in Sweden since 1958. But at the end of December 2014, just before the re-election would have been announced, the government and the Alliance reached a settlement that allowed a minority government to govern the country and get through its budget. As a result, there was no new election.
The so-called December agreement was to last until the election in 2022, but was unpopular with many bourgeois voters. When the KD held a national assembly in October 2015, the representatives voted to scrap the settlement and other bourgeois parties immediately followed suit. As a result, the country was once again in the difficult parliamentary position that prevailed after the election. In practice, however, the December agreement continued to work and the government was able to continue the term of office, despite dissatisfaction with the bourgeois ranks.
The new uncertainty arose at the same time as representatives of both government and opposition talked about the need for a national gathering to deal with the sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers. The unrest in the Middle East was the main cause of a dramatically increased influx from the summer of 2015: during a period in the autumn, around 10,000 asylum seekers arrived this week. On a per capita basis, more people came to Sweden than to any other country in Europe. Generous rules contributed, since a couple of years all Syrians automatically got permanent residence permit. The new situation led to a political turmoil. Temporary border checks were introduced in November 2015, and in the summer of 2016, the asylum law was amended so that time-limited residence permits and small family immigration opportunities became the norm.
In June 2016, the Government and M, KD and C entered into an important agreement on energy policy. Among other things, a compromise on nuclear power was reached, an infected issue that has been debated regularly since the 1970s (see also Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment).
The Löfven government was drawn with relatively low opinion figures. For the smaller government partner MP, the situation was particularly serious. Confidence in the party was greatly eroded since it was forced to backtrack in matters of heart that affected, among other things, asylum policy and the environment, especially regarding the state energy company Vattenfall’s lignite operations in Germany.
In the summer of 2017, security shortcomings were revealed in the Swedish Transport Agency, which became troublesome for the government. The authority was found to have handled data that was worthy of protection, and had outsourced its data operations to external operators, despite objections from the Security Police (Säpo). When the deal became known, the government received harsh criticism for lack of communication, both internally and externally. The opposition threatened with distrust of three ministers because of the handling of the IT scandal, which resulted in the resignation of Interior Minister Anders Ygeman and Minister of Infrastructure Anna Johansson. However, when a vote of no confidence was later held against Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, he managed, after C and L changed his mind and decided not to vote him out.
At the end of 2017, the government and the alliance parties reached a settlement on the pension issue (see Calendar).
Ahead of the 2018 election, growing support for SD made it clear early on that the issue of government formation would be difficult.
Extended government formation
The parliamentary elections on September 9 became very even between the two traditional blocs: 144 seats for the red-green parties and 143 seats for the Alliance. The Swedish Democrats progressed compared to the previous elections, but with 62 mandates received less support than many had predicted.
Later that month, the newly elected parliament appointed moderate member Andreas Norlén as new president. The following day, the Riksdag voted away Prime Minister Löfven, who, however, remained as the leader of a transitional government.
Subsequently, a prolonged process with a series of failed attempts to form a new government took place. Only on January 18, 2019 could the Social Democrats Stefan Löfven be elected prime minister for a new minority government together with the Environment Party. This could happen after an agreement, called the January Agreement, was signed with the Center Party and the Liberals. The January agreement, with 73 points, constitutes a political program that the four parties agreed to implement during the term of office. Through the agreement, the Alliance effectively cracked down on the national level.
In spring 2020, Sweden, like many parts of the world, ended up in a crisis due to the corona pandemic. The difficult situation for health care and a rapidly downward spiral in the economy initially led to a relatively calm political phase, where the opposition largely made a joint effort with the government in trying to stem the worst effects of the crisis. But the high death toll in the pandemic is contributing to growing criticism of the government.
Sweden adopted a strategy that was based almost entirely on voluntary service, unlike other countries. Crowds of more than 50 people were banned, as were visits to seniors’ homes, and colleges and colleges switched to distance education. However, the express prohibitions have been few. Instead, calls have been made to stay at home with the minimum signs of illness, work from home if possible, keep social distance, not travel within the country, etc.
Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Kingdom of Sweden
monarchy, unitary state
Head of State
King Carl XVI Gustaf (1973–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (2014–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Social Democrats 100, Moderate Assembly 70, Sweden Democrats 62, Center Party 31, Left Party 28, Christian Democrats 22, Liberals 20, The Green Party 16 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Social Democrats 113, Moderate Assembly Party 84, Sweden Democrats 49, Environmental Party Green 25, Center Party 22, Left Party 21, People’s Liberals 19, Christian Democrats 16 (2014)
87.2% in the 2018 general election
parliamentary elections 2022