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Election vocabulary: How to talk about politics like a Swede

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Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson with two essential political tools: kaffe (coffee) and smartphone (smartphone). Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
07:47 CEST+02:00
Can't tell your valfläsk from your partiledare? Let The Local guide you through the Swedish political vocabulary you should know to hold your own in a valdebatt.

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The basics

The word for 'election' is val, which also means 'choice' and 'whale', just to make things extra confusing for Swedish learners. Sweden votes in three elections on the same day: riksdagsvalet (the election for the national parliament), landstingsvalet (the regional election) and kommunalvalet (the municipal election).

Swedish citizens over the age of 18 have rösträtt (right to vote). But although the national election tends to get more attention, non-citizens should know that you may still be able to rösta (vote) in the regional and local elections. If you're röstberättigad (eligible voter) you may have received a röstkort (voting card) in the mail.

READ ALSO: How to vote in the 2018 Swedish election


What röstsedlar (we'll explain this further down) might look like in Sweden. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
 

The campaigning

The valkampanjer (election campaigns) are under way with the parties falling over themselves trying to present the most attractive vallöften (campaign promises) or, if you want to be more cynical, valfläsk (overly generous promises; literally election pork). In squares all over Sweden you will see valstugor (election huts, where party workers talk to voters about their policies), TV listings will be full of partiledardebatter (party leader debates) and if you're unlucky you may hear a number of floskler (empty phrases).


Some of the party leaders taking part in a debate at EuroPride in Stockholm this summer. Photo: Hossein Salmanzadeh/TT

The voting

You are already able to förtidsrösta (advance voting), but if you're more traditionally-minded you can also go to your designated röstlokal (polling station) on valdagen (the day of the election).

When you're there, you pick up the röstsedel (ballot paper) of your preferred parti (party) and put it in the valurna (ballot box). If you want you can also personrösta, which is when you tick the name of a specific candidate who you think should represent the party as riksdagsledamot (member of parliament).

Alternatively, people may choose to rösta blankt, which is when you do turn up at the polling station on the day, but instead of voting you put a blank slip of paper in the ballot box as a form of protest.

Sweden generally enjoys high valdeltagande (voter turnout). In the 2014 election more than 85 percent of eligible voters cast their vote.


Gustav Fridolin, partiledare (party leader) of Miljöpartiet, taking part in förtidsröstning. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The contenders

The ruling Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats) and Miljöpartiet (Green Party) have been running Sweden as a koalitionsregering (coalition government) for the past four years' mandatperiod (term). They together with Vänsterpartiet (Left Party) make up vänsterblocket (the left bloc) in parliament.

Their traditional opponents are högern (the right wing), also often referred to as de borgerliga (the bourgeois – which doesn't automatically have the same strong connotations in Swedish as in English). They consist of Alliansen (the Alliance), a four-party coalition made up of Moderaterna (Moderates), Centerpartiet (Centreparty), Liberalerna (Liberals) and Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats).

Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats), a party with roots in the far-right which runs on an anti-immigration platform, has also emerged as a potential challenger and kingmaker in the election.

READ ALSO: What sort of government might Sweden have after the election?


A partiledardebatt on Swedish television. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The future

According to opinionsundersökningar (opinion polls), there's unlikely to be a clear-cut winner, which means lengthy post-election förhandlingar (negotiations) and maybe blocköverskridande (bipartisan) compromises. Minoritetsregeringar (minority governments) are not uncommon in Sweden.

The talman (speaker of parliament) puts forward a proposal for a new statsminister (prime minister) to the new parliament, which votes for or against. More than half of Sweden's 349 MPs have to vote against the förslag (proposal) to reject it, but it does not need the explicit support of a majority. Opposition parties may therefore choose to lägga ner sina röster (abstain) to make the process run smoothly if they don't think that they themselves are strong enough to be able to bilda regering (form a government).

It has never before happened that the speaker's nominee for prime minister has been rejected by parliament, but if it does happen he or she can repeat the process four times. If parliament is still unable to reach an agreement on the next prime minister an extra val (a new election) will be held.

Can you think of any other Swedish political words? Let us know and we'll add them to the list. But first, try the quiz below to see how much of this article you remember (no cheating!):

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