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POLITICS

Swedish vocabulary: How to talk about the political crisis like a Swede

Keeping up with the twists and turns over the recent events in Swedish politics is a challenge, let alone navigating it in a foreign language. We've collected the key Swedish words and phrases you need to hold your own when the conversation turns to politics.

Swedish vocabulary: How to talk about the political crisis like a Swede
'Vad är det som händer?' (What's going on) is a starting point. Photo: Lars Schröder/TT

What’s happening?

There’s a lot going on in Swedish politik (politics, but also ‘policy’) at the moment.

The regering (government) just lost a misstroendeförklaring (no-confidence vote) which saw a majority of the riksdag (parliament) vote to topple them. That’s created a regeringskris (government crisis).

There are two possibilities for what happens next: we could get a talmansrunda, which has no direct English translation but refers to talks between the talman (speaker of parliament) and partiledare (party leaders), or we could be heading for an extraval (snap election). The word for ‘election’ is val, which also means ‘choice’ and ‘whale’, just to make things extra confusing for Swedish learners.

The current crisis erupted over marknadshyror (market rents), a centre-right policy that the centre-left government reluctantly agreed to look into, but which was a step too far for the Left Party, on whose support the government relies. 

What next?

It depends if the statsminister (Prime Minister) chooses to go for an extraval or talmansrunda.

If it’s an extraval, it should take place in September and Swedish citizens over the age of 18 have rösträtt (right to vote) and will be able to rösta (vote). The most recent partisympatiundersökningar (party sympathy surveys) show that a right-wing government would be on track for a knapp majoritet (narrow majority) but it’s very, very close.

If it’s a talmansrunda, the talman will speak to the different partiledare and appoint one of them, who he thinks has a chance at forming a viable government, to sondera (this roughly means ‘to feel/sound out’ and in politics, it refers to chatting to the other leaders to see if they can gather enough support for a government).

Forming a viable government will require some parties to reach a kompromiss (compromise), since the Centre Party, for example, has ruled out samarbete (cooperation) with the Left but also with the far-right.

The parties

First there are the Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats) and Miljöpartiet (Green Party), who have been running Sweden as a koalitionsregering (coalition government). 

They were able to come to power thanks to reaching an agreement with two former members of their opposition, the Centerpartiet (Centre Party) and Liberalerna (Liberals). The agreement where they agreed support in exchange for policy influence is called Januariavtalet (the January Deal), and that makes the Centre and Liberals stödpartier (support parties).

Also usually backing the government is Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party), although it has no formal agreement in place like the Centre and Liberals, so is technically part of the opposition — that’s why it pushed for a vote of no-confidence over one of the points in the Januariavtalet.

On the right side of the political spectrum, Moderaterna (the Moderates) and Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrats) were formerly part of a four-party coalition with the Centre and Liberals called Alliansen (the Alliance). These parties are often referred to as de borgerliga (the bourgeois – which doesn’t automatically have the same strong connotations in Swedish as in English).

Further to the right are Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats), a party with roots in the far-right which runs on an anti-immigration platform.

Useful phrases

Vad finns det för alternativ nu? – What alternatives are there now?

Blir det ett extraval? – Will there be a snap election?

Till vems fördel blir ett extraval? – Who would benefit from a snap election?

Kommer Stefan Löfven kunna skapa en regering? – Will Stefan Löfven be able to form a government?

Varför är marknadshyror en så viktig fråga? – Why are market rents such an important issue?

Hur mycket inflytande kommer Vänsterpartiet/Centerpartiet få? – How much influence will the Left Party/Centre Party have?

Vad tror du kommer hända nu? – What do you think will happen next?

And if you find yourself in a political debate and not sure what to say next, you can never go wrong with a drawn out, non-committal njaaa (well…).

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: förståsigpåare

Today’s word is like a know-it-all who actually knows something.

Swedish word of the day: förståsigpåare

According to svenska.se, a förståsigpåare is ‘a person who is well versed in something and likes to let others know this’ or ‘a person who knows something (whatever it is at the moment), connoisseur,; expert, professional, expert; also: person who imagines that this knowledge applies to understanding everything.’

Förståsigpåare has been traced back to 1798 in writing, but could be older. The word is actually three words turned into a noun. Normally turning a verb or an adjective into a noun is what is called a ‘nominalization’. In this case it is three words förstå (‘to understand’), sig (‘reflexive pronoun’), and (‘on’): a verb, a reflexive pronoun, and a preposition. 

The original phrase, still in use today, is att förstå sig på något. Just like Förståsigpåare, this is a common way of saying that someone knows how something works or to have knowledge of something. 

Förståsigpåare is often used ironically, in which case it applies to people who are know-it-alls, and in this sense, there’s also a noun for the phenomenon itself: förståsigpåeri. One can then deplore the widespread phenomenon of förståsigpåeri, where people pretend to know a whole lot about things of which they really do not know much at all. 

But the word is not always used ironically or in a derogatory sense, it can also simply mean a pundit, or an expert. So you can often see a förståsigpåare on television explaining a certain something, like the American electoral college or the delicacies of the Balkans, or just explaining the tactics of a football game. In other words anyone sharing knowledge of a particular something, or who can explain something, can be a förståsigpåare.

Example sentences:

Den där, han är en riktig förståsigpåare.

That one, he’s a real know-it-all.

För att förklara hur elektorskollegiet fungerar så har vi amerikanske förståsigpåaren Marcus Smith. 

To explain how the electoral college works we have the American pundit Marcus Smith. 

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.

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