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READER QUESTIONS

What are The Local Sweden’s ‘reader questions’?

You may have seen 'reader question' in some of our recent reports, but who can ask a reader question and what can be asked? Here's what you need to know.

What are The Local Sweden’s ‘reader questions’?
Swedish pepparkakor biscuits baked in the shape of question marks and exclamation marks. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

You may have seen articles titled ‘reader question’ around the site and, as you may have guessed, they’re based on questions sent in by you, The Local’s readers.

We receive – and try our best to answer – a large number of such questions, and if any of them touch on a topic that is likely to affect or interest others, we may turn the answer into an article with ‘reader question’ in the headline.

Who can ask a reader question and can I ask anonymously?

All readers of The Local Sweden can ask a reader question, you do not need to be a paying subscriber. If you do find our reporting valuable however, then please consider signing up.

Answering reader questions individually is a time-consuming task made possible only by the support of our members. Therefore, the growing archive of ‘reader question’ articles is only available to subscribers.

You do not need to live in Sweden to ask a reader question – we tackle many topics relevant to second-home owners, visitors to Sweden or simply people who have an interest in Sweden and its language or culture – but the question does need to relate to Sweden.

We will only turn a question into a reader question article where it has value to the broader Local community (and where we know or can find out the answer, obviously).

Sometimes a question can serve as inspiration, i.e. if you ask us ‘why doesn’t my dog love me?’, we may refer you to one of Sweden’s best pet therapists – and then put together an article on pet care in Sweden.

All reader questions we publish are anonymous. We never release any details of your private correspondence with us and we will not publish a reader question where the person asking it could be identified.

What kinds of questions can be asked?

Any question can be asked, as long as it relates somehow to Sweden.

For obvious reasons, recent questions have tended to focus on the Covid pandemic and the Swedish government’s rules, such as this article on Covid tests, and this article on Covid entry rules across Europe for American travellers.

Questions don’t need to be about Covid or government rules though – they can be about anything that’s on your mind, such as this question on organic food in Sweden, and this question on pensions.

If you have a question about Swedish language or culture, we’re happy to have a go at answering this too – no matter how big or small.

In brief; if you’ve ever wondered, feel free to ask.

If necessary, we will reach out to our contacts in the Swedish government or to trusted experts to get the answer.

If you’d like to have a question answered, drop us a line at [email protected]

You can find our previous reader questions HERE.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

A reader got in touch to ask whether there is a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP to protest, voice a political opinion, or raise a local issue. Here's how it works in Sweden.

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

People in Sweden do send letters to members of the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament, but it doesn’t work in quite the same way as it does in the UK or the US.

Human rights organisations, pressure groups, and concerned individuals will frequently send individual letters or mount letter-writing campaigns to try to influence MPs on issues that concern them.

Sweden is a transparent society, so it is easy to obtain the contact details of MPs in the parliament. You can find emails for all 349 MPs here, or if you prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, you can simply pop your letter in an envelope and send it, with the MPs name at the top, to this address:

Sveriges riksdag,

100 12 Stockholm. 

For the human rights group Amnesty, for instance, writing letters to politicians is one of the main strategies. 

The big difference between writing to your MP in Sweden, and writing to an MP, Congressman, or Senator in the UK or the US, of course, is that MPs in Sweden do not represent a constituency in the same way. 

The UK has 650 constituencies, each with its own MP. Sweden, on the other hand, has 29, with the smallest, Gotland, having two MPs, and the largest, Stockholm, having 43. You can see a map of Sweden’s constituencies here

When citizens vote in general elections, they vote for a political party first, and only then vote for which of the party’s candidates they would most like to represent them, in so-called “personal preference voting”. 

The election authority then distributes the seats in each constituency to each party based on what share of the vote they got in that constituency. A further 39 adjustment seats, which are not tied to a constituency, are then distributed to make sure the number of MPs each party has in parliament reflects their share of the vote at a national level. 

READ ALSO: What are The Local’s reader questions? 

For the purposes of letter-writing, the important difference is that you do not have an MP in Sweden, but several, normally representing rival political parties. 

According to David Karlsson, a professor at Gothenburg University, who has written a paper on letters sent to MPs, most Swedes will have no idea who the MPs are who represent their constituency. 

“It’s very obvious and well-known in Britain who the MP is,” he points out. “Knowledge of who the local MP is in Sweden is very very low, very few people could name the MP elected from their constituency.” 

Another big difference is that MPs in Sweden tend to focus their attention more at the national level, and not to see their primary role as representing the interests of their local constituencies. They don’t hold “surgeries” in their local constituencies in the same way that MPs do in the UK, and are less likely to get involved in helping individual citizens solve local problems.  

Partly this is because what they need to do to get reelected is to retain the support of their local political party organisation, rather than the support of voters. Partly, its because MPs have very little power to influence their local municipalities and regions. 

“There is a big difference in how much [MPs in Sweden] can do. If people want help in their private, local cases, there is very little executive power in being an MP,” Karlsson says.  

As a result, people in Sweden are more likely to write letters to local municipal councillors or regional representatives, rather than to their MPs if they want help with personal problems and local issues. 

When Amnesty writes letters to MPs, they usually decide which MP to write to based on whether they are actively engaged in the issue at hand, or whether they sit on a certain committee, rather than on which constituency they represent. 

When Amnesty is campaigning on a local issue, however, they do sometimes still write letters to MPs based on the constituency where the issue is taking place. 

For instance, when a Romanian citizen living in Gävleborg was hit with heavy medical bills from the regional health authority because she had a baby in a local hospital without the required paperwork, Amnesty sent letters to MPs representing the constituency. 

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