• Sweden's news in English
 

Sweden elections: How do they work?

Published: 21 Aug 2014 11:46 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Sep 2014 07:46 GMT+02:00

Why is Sweden holding elections now?
 
There are elections in Sweden every four years. There are 349 seats up for grabs in the national parliament (Riksdag) and registered voters will also choose the next politicians to make up 21 county councils and 290 municipal assemblies. 
 
Can I have a say?
 
You have to be a Swedish citizen aged 18 or over to vote in national elections. But if you're from the EU, Iceland or Norway and you're registered as living in Sweden, then you can have a say in municipal and county council elections. People from outside Europe who have been in Sweden for more than three years may also be allowed to vote locally. In total around seven million people are eligible to go to the polls.
 
Where do I vote?
 
If you're allowed to vote, you should get a voting card in the post, giving you the details of your nearest polling station. Don't forget to take along your ID. Some municipal buildings and libraries allow you to vote in advance. Swedes living abroad can vote by post. If you're sick, disabled or elderly, you can send someone else to vote for you.
 
How do I vote?
 
Sweden uses multi-coloured ballot papers. Yellow is for the Riksdag election, white is for municipal elections and blue is for county council elections. 
 
Once you've worked out what colour you need, you can then choose from three different types of ballot paper. One allows you to pick from a list of candidates, another simply identifies the party you want to select and the third is blank for you to write down your preference in your own words. 
 
Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
 
How are the winners chosen?
 
Like most of Europe, Sweden uses a system of proportional representation, which means the number of seats a party wins largely reflects the share of the vote it gets nationwide. The exception is that parties winning less than four percent of the vote are excluded from the Riksdag and parties securing less than three percent of the vote at county level cannot participate in local government.
 
How will we know which party has won?
 
Ballot papers start being counted by hand as soon as the polls close and each polling station passes its figures on to Sweden's Election Authority. A provisional result in the national poll is usually announced on election night, with local election figures being released later in the week. The Local will keep you updated on our Elections Blog.
 
So when do we find out who the next Prime Minister is?
 
This is where it gets complicated. 
 
If one political party wins an absolute majority of seats (more than 50 percent) then its leader will be chosen as Prime Minister. But this is rare in Sweden, where there are a large number of parties to choose from.
 
So, if no party wins an absolute majority, the group with the largest number of seats will try to form a government by building a coalition with other parties that share some of its ideals. Since 2006 there has been a centre-right Alliance in Sweden, led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and his Moderate Party. The current coalition also incorporates the Liberals (Folkpartiet), the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats. The Alliance has said it seeks renewed confidence to continue its work after the 2014 election.
 
The Social Democrats previously made a pact to form a coalition with the Greens. This was abandoned in 2010 but the parties haven't ruled out working together in future. The Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) is often lumped in with the red-greens in polls, but it remains unclear whether it will form part of a red-green coalition.
 
In 2014, the potential success of smaller parties such as the nationalist Sweden Democrats and the Feminist Initiative could have a key impact. If these parties do well, they could upset the balance in parliament and make it harder for traditional larger parties to form a coalition. These parties may be forced to compromise on some of their key policies or form unusual alliances. If this makes the government appear too unstable, there could even be calls for a fresh election.
 
 
For more information on how elections in Sweden work click here (PDF).

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
PM brings up death penalty on China trip
Photo: TT

PM brings up death penalty on China trip

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven broached sensitive subjects such as the death penalty and human right in a Saturday meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. READ  

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm
Photo: TT

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sweden will soon return to Stockholm after a diplomatic spat, Swedish officials said Saturday. But an envoy sent to Riyadh stopped short of offering the Saudis an apology. READ  

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow
Photo: TT/Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow

Three Swedish parliamentarians met with fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden at a secret location in Moscow on Friday to discuss mass surveillance. READ  

Spring budget
Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way
Social Democrat Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Green Party deputy Per Bolund at a press conference on Friday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT.

Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way

Sweden's left-wing government proposed a hike in petrol taxes on Friday, citing the drop in oil prices and pressure put on it by its coalition partner the Greens. READ  

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged  83
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged 83

UPDATED: Swedish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Tomas Tranströmer has passed away at the age of 83, his publishers confirmed on Friday. READ  

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson before his sick leave. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'

Jimmie Åkesson, who is poised to return as leader of Sweden's nationalist party in April after months of sick leave, has revealed he is taking antidepressants for exhaustion and sleeping difficulties in an interview set to air late on Friday. READ  

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?
Pia Sundhage, left, celebrating after Sweden beats Scotland in the World Cup qualifier. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?

Swedish football coach Pia Sundhage's contract leading the women's national team runs out next year. And she has not yet made up her mind as to whether or not she wants to stay on. “If they asked me today, I would say no,” she told The Local on Friday. READ  

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel
Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg Larsson's former partner. Photo: TT

Stieg Larsson's partner blasts trilogy sequel

The partner of Sweden's best-known contempory author Stieg Larsson has criticised the decision to publish a fourth installment of his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, written by another author. READ  

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees
Ikea flat-pack shelters will be delivered to refugee camps. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees

Flat-pack shelters produced by Swedish furniture giant Ikea are set to provide temporary homes to thousands of refugees in camps around the world. READ  

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China
Sweden's PM Stefan Löfven talks to reporters outside the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Swedish PM faces rights pressure in China

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven landed in China on Friday for a two-day visit. But on the home front he has been facing pressure to push more to get human rights on the agenda when he meets with Chinese leaders. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Politics
Why does Russia blame Sweden for the crisis in Ukraine?
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen
National
Listen to the English remix of a Swedish 'genitals' song gone viral
Technology
'Swedish women are strong and ambitious'
National
Why are 11 Roma people suing the Swedish state?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,482
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se