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Swedish word of the day: talmansrunda

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Swedish word of the day: talmansrunda
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
15:10 CET+01:00
The word 'talmansrunda' is crucial vocabulary if you want to have any hope of understanding the ongoing political deadlock in Sweden.

Let's break the word down. Talman means 'speaker of parliament' and is itself a compound word from the verb att tala (to speak) and the noun man (man). There have been women speakers in Sweden's political history, the first of them in 1991, but women in the role are still referred to as the talman (Fru Talman or 'Ms Speaker' in direct address, and en kvinnlig talman or 'a woman speaker' if it's necessary to emphasize the speaker's gender).

Then there's the noun runda, which means 'round' or 'turn'. So far, so simple. But to explain what the word means, we need some context on the current political situation.

Currently the parliamentary speaker is Andreas Norlén, who has held the role since September, and one of his main responsibilities is formally proposing a prime ministerial candidate. After elections with a straightforward 'winner', this is fairly easy: the job would almost always go to the leader of the largest bloc or party.

But as you may be aware, that wasn't the case this year, with just one seat separating the two biggest blocs. As a result, Norlén has had a key role to play in the ensuing negotiations, and that's where the talmansrundor come into play.

A talmansrunda is the stage of the political process when the speaker holds one-on-one talks with the different party leaders in order to work out the best way forward in forming a government.

Talks on forming Sweden's new government to continue next week
Ulf Kristersson partakes in a talmansrunda. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

This year, the talks have featured a lot of coffee and cake, with considerable attention paid by press to which buns were served to which leaders. Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt even shared pictures of the home-baked cinnamon buns he contributed to the talks on social media.

But what they haven't featured, apparently, is much insight on what a government acceptable to parliament would look like. We've now had several talmansrundor – each with slightly less ceremony, with later rounds taking place on the phone after the initial in-person meetings with fika and there's still no government.

It's hard to say precisely which 'round' of talks we are on, because Swedish politics allows two different definitions for the term. Some say that each set of talks with the party leaders equates to a different talmansrunda, whereas others say that the first talmansrunda includes all the talks that take place before a formal proposal of a PM candidate is made.

Using the second definition, we're currently in the third talmansrunda after two prime ministerial candidates have been nominated and both rejected by parliament (Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson and Social Democrats leader Stefan Löfven). This is a record, because previously parliament had always accepted the first candidate proposed.

Examples

Talmannen kommer hålla en ny talmansrunda med partiledarna per telefon

The speaker will hold a new round of talks with the party leaders on the telephone

Talmannen har fixat fika till alla partiledarna under dagens talmansrundor

The speaker prepared fika for all the party leaders during the day's talks

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