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‘The party is in big trouble’: How Swedes would vote if an election were held today

The Liberal Party and the Greens would lose their seats in parliament if Sweden went to the polls today, according to a major party preference survey. Here's why it matters.

Nyamko Sabuni's Liberal Party have suffered in the latest polls. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Nyamko Sabuni's Liberal Party have suffered in the latest polls. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The survey, published on Wednesday by Statistics Sweden, estimates that the governing centre-left Social Democrats would still win the largest share of the votes, with the conservative Moderate Party coming second, and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats third.

The minority Liberal Party suffered an overall decrease of 3 percentage points compared to Sweden’s last election in 2018. The survey estimates that 0.5 percent of voters would switch from the Liberals to the Centre Party. 

Nicholas Aylott, associate professor of political science at Södertörn University, told The Local: “The Liberals are suffering because the party is split along the new fault line of Swedish politics which is the question of immigration and integration and relations with the Sweden Democrats.”

“If a party finds itself evenly split on such a central question, one that stirs up so much sensitivity on both sides, then it’s likely to be in trouble,” he said.   

Liberal leaders recently voted to stop propping up the country’s red-green coalition government and campaign alongside the right-wing Moderate party in the run-up to next year’s September general election.  

“This manoeuvre seems to have had no pay off at all or been swamped by its costs,” Aylott said.  

“The party is in big trouble, there’s no doubt about that.”

Because of Sweden’s political model, one of the larger parties would need the support of smaller parties in order to form a government. But the threshold for getting a seat in parliament is 4 percent – a threshold the Liberals and the Greens are currently at risk of not making. If only one of them gets in, it could tip the election either in favour of the left (if the Greens get in, but the Liberals do not) or the right (vice versa). 

According to this latest poll, the Greens are only missing the 0.2 percent needed to make that threshold, while the Liberals would need gains of 1.5 percentage points.  

Statistic Sweden polling data May 2021
Estimate of election results “if an election had been held today” May 2021, and the difference compared with the 2018 parliamentary election. From left: Centre Party (C), Liberal Party (L), Moderate Party (M), Christian Democrats (KD), Social Democratic Party (S), Left Party (V), Green Party (MP), Sweden Democrats (SD). The asterisk means the change is statistically significant. Data and graph: Statistics Sweden

The results did not differ significantly from the last survey conducted by Statistics Sweden in November 2020. After significant losses at the end of 2020, the governing Social Democrats have maintained the same points.

“There are signs of politics getting back to normal to some extent after the pandemic,” according to Aylott. 

He said that the return of criminality, violence and instability to front pages could favour parties of the right or that the return to a pre-pandemic “normal” would benefit incumbent parties of the status quo. 

Compared with the 2018 parliamentary election, the Sweden Democrats took about 0.6 percent of votes from the Social Democratic Party, and saw overall gains of about 1.4 percent in these survey results. The Moderate Party would gain significant points from the last election. 

Aylott said: “It’s difficult to see from these results what would happen with the next government. It’s so unpredictable.”

There is also a level of uncertainty around rumours that the current Prime Minister Stefan Löfven might resign as leader of the Social Democrats this summer.

According to Statistics Sweden, just over 13 percent of the electorate is still unsure about who to vote for.

A general election will be held in September 2022 to elect the 349 members of Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag.

Member comments

  1. One should also speculate what might happen if the Liberals and the Greens _both_ fall below the 4% threshold in the general election next year. As things stand, the Social Democrats along with the Left and Centre Parties would get 46.6% while the Moderates, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats would scrape together 45.8%. But these numbers depend on Centern giving its unwavering support to a SocDem/Left coalition, which would seem doubtful for the full length of a 4-year term with Centern’s history of changing sides when it suits them. They also disagree profoundly with the Left Party on certain fundamental issues, making any kind of coalition difficult right from the start. It is indeed because of this situation that Miljöpartiet holds such a strong bargaining position in the current government. In other words, should Miljöpartiet fall below 4% in the next general election, a left-wing socialist coalition will be automatically doomed.

    Nobody will miss the Liberals should they lose their seats in Riksdagen, while the departure of the Greens would be very significant. Miljöpartiet currently plays a totally disproportionate role in today’s government with regard in particular to long-term infrastructure policy that includes airports, railways, nuclear power, and much more. It’s quite terrifying how such a small but radical party can hold the Social Democrats to ransom on such vital policies that will have an effect on Sweden over several decades to come.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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