2022 Swedish election For Members

A guide to bloc politics: What might Sweden's next government look like?

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
A guide to bloc politics: What might Sweden's next government look like?
Rosenbad, the seat of Sweden's government. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT. Graphic: The Local

Polls have closed in Sweden's election and over 95 percent of votes have been counted, but it's still all to play for, with either side still in reach of a narrow victory. What could Sweden's government end up looking like?


"There are two questions here," Nicholas Aylott, Associate Professor at Stockholm's Södertörn University says of the predicted election result when we speak to him a few days before the election.

"First, which bloc wins? Before this election, the eight parties in parliament have more or less sorted themselves into two blocs, one on the left, one on the right. One of these blocs will win a parliamentary majority"."But then there's the next question: which parties within the winning bloc will actually join the government, and which will support the government in parliament without participating in it?"The parties' blocks below are sorted by colour and rough size of vote share.


Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

This is the Moderates' goal. The government would be a weak minority government, heavily dependent on the outside support of both the Sweden Democrats and the Liberals for its majority. 

If the current one seat majority holds when the last votes are counted on Wednesday, this would give the Liberal Party the decisive vote, allowing it to block Ulf Kristersson from taking over as PM, the government passing a budget, and most legislation unless it gets it's way. 

Under this constellation, the Liberal leader Johan Pehrson really would have the ability to act as the government's humanitarian and moral watchdog, preventing it from enacting some of the more extreme policies on the Sweden Democrats' wishlist. 


Other issues that could arise here include the Sweden Democrats and the Moderates clashing over economic policy, where the Sweden Democrats are further to the left - for example, on issues such as strengthening unemployment insurance (a-kassa), which the Moderates want to cut if they get in to power.

The Christian Democrats also want to keep Sweden's commitment to spending one percent of GDP on international aid, whereas the Sweden Democrats and Moderates want to scale this back. Finally, it is possible that the Sweden Democrats will make demands on immigration or, say, slimming down Sweden's public service broadcasters, that the Liberal Party decides it cannot accept. 

"Possible," is Aylott's verdict ahead of the election. "The Moderates are dubious about the Liberals' involvement. The Christian Democrats are very dubious. And the Sweden Democrats very dubious indeed. And because the Liberals can't possibly switch their allegiance yet again, they would have little bargaining power."


Moderates, Liberals and Christian Democrats

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

Another alternative could see the Liberals join the Moderates and the Christian Democrats in government, with the support of the Sweden Democrats.

This would again be a minority government, dependent on outside support from the Sweden Democrats for power. 

"Possible," Aylott says. "If the Sweden Democrats stay out of government, the Moderates and the Christian Democrats might just conclude that it's better to have the Liberals inside, rather than pressing it from outside, as the Sweden Democrats would certainly be doing."

Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Sweden Democrats

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

This is the Sweden Democrats' goal, with the party's leader Jimmie Åkesson once again stating his party's ambition to join the government in his election night speech. 

The obstacle to this is that the Moderates and the Christian Democrats have both said they will not join the Sweden Democrats in government, and the Liberals have pledged not to let a government take office which includes the Sweden Democrats. 

Aylott, however, still rates this as "possible".

"The Sweden Democrats face a paradox and a dilemma," he argues.

Not joining a government could come with a heavy cost, he argues. 

"If the Sweden Democrats now eschew the chance to govern if it should arise, voters might not be impressed with their reluctance to take responsibility (this was the fate of the Danish People's Party after the 2015 election). A lot depends on the election result. A really good one for the Sweden Democrats might make it hard for them to stay out of office."

Meanwhile, the Liberals would probably want to keep their distance from such a government, Aylott suspects. 

"If SD is so strong that it can't avoid being in government, the Liberals would be happy to keep their hands relatively clean by staying out, even as they completed the government's parliamentary majority."


Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

This is another possibility if the right-wing bloc form a government, although the Moderates and the Christian Democrats have both said they won't accept the Sweden Democrats in government. It's also unlikely that the Liberals would be in such a government, although not impossible.

If the right-wing parties win the election, this is likely to be their only chance of forming a majority government. 

Again, this government could see issues arising between all four governmental parties who would need to make substantial compromises in order to reach an agreement on policy. Economic policy in particular could be a real issue here, so it depends how willing the Sweden Democrats are to move to the right on economic issues in order to push through their immigration policy.

The Liberals are also closer to the centre than the Moderates and Christian Democrats, adding another layer of complication into the mix - although as the smallest party, they will have less power to negotiate than the Sweden Democrats. 



Social Democrats, Centre and Greens, supported by Left

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

The Social Democrats are also campaigning on a pledge to stop state-funded free schools from withdrawing profits for their owners, something the Centre Party is strongly opposed to. The two parties also have opposing policies on tax. These differences should be surmountable, however, with Aylott seeing the greatest obstacle being between the Left and Centre Parties.

"Unlikely," is his final verdict. "The Left has said that it wouldn't accept being the only member of a left-wing majority that is not included in the government. But it's very hard to see how the Centre Party could live with the Left Party's inclusion.". 

Given sufficient concessions, and in a situation where the only alternative is a right-wing government backed by the Sweden Democrats, could the Left Party back down? 

This constellation would be a minority government, with the support of the Left Party likely to bring it only a few mandates into a majority. 


Social Democrat minority

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

This is the makeup of Sweden's current government, where the Social Democrats have a one-party minority government supported by the Greens, Centre and Left.


The government would be weak and forced to negotiate with multiple parties in parliament in order to pass legislation.

This for Aylott is the most likely government if the left bloc wins. "The Left and Centre parties would probably keep each other out of government. Meanwhile, it's not certain that the Greens would want to shoulder the burden of office again, which previously cost them votes. It might well suit both them and the Social Democrats if the latter governed alone, as now.

"If the Greens were to join, which Aylott thinks is "possible", the government would be slightly stronger, but still reliant on negotiating with other parties to secure a majority."This would be a reheated version of the 2019 January agreement (except without the Liberals)," he continues. "Both the Left and the Centre parties would grumble. Still, if the other is also excluded, each of them could probably put up with it. But would the Greens want to be in government? Would they be wanted?"

The last Social Democrat-Green government didn't end well, after all. Newly-elected prime minister Magdalena Andersson ended up resigning just a few hours after she was appointed once the Greens pulled out of the government over having to rule on a right-wing budget.

Social Democrats, Centre, Greens and Left 
Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

Another possible constellation could see the Left Party included in the government, rather than staying outside in a supporting role. This is perhaps the left bloc's best hope of forming a majority government. 

The only way this could happen is if Nooshi Dadgostar or Annie Lööf made enormous policy concessions. Would Dadgostar be willing to serve in an economically centrist, or even economically centre-right, government if her party got ministerial positions. Would Annie Lööf be willing to service in an economically left-wing one?


Social Democrats, Centre, Greens and Liberals
Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

This was the basis of the January Agreement, an agreement between these four parties which supported a Social Democrat-Green government under Stefan Löfven between January 2019 and July 2021.

The Liberals have since then swapped sides and joined the right-wing bloc, and the party's leader, Johan Pehrson, has repeatedly expressed his support for a change in Sweden's leadership, making it extremely unlikely the party will reverse course. 

"No," is Aylott's verdict. "It's a cliché that to be Liberal is to be conflicted. But you can only take being conflicted so far. They switched from the right bloc to the left one in 2019. Then they switched back to the right one in 2021. To switch back leftwards again would take internal stress beyond any bearable limit."

Could the populist Sweden Democrats make such extreme demands on a future Moderate-led government that the Liberals are absolutely forced to change sides? 

A 'grand coalition'

Graphic: Becky Waterton/The Local

An extremely unlikely government, this would see the Social Democrats and the Moderates unite to form a government together. If this were to happen, it is likely to be in a situation where all other options had been exhausted, or a situation where the country is facing some sort of crisis.

Grand coalitions have been formed before elsewhere, although not in Sweden. They usually occur when countries are facing war, recession, or other major events where politicians decide to put aside their ideological differences in favour of stability and unity.

The Social Democrats and Moderates are and have always been rivals, and the fear for both of them in joining this coalition would be losing a share of the vote if their core voters felt disappointed in them crossing the divide and working together. Outside of a crisis, both parties would probably prefer to be in opposition. 

Such a coalition would probably draw in the Green Party, the Centre Party and the Liberals to form a majority government. 

"If such an agreement did happen, it would mark the victory of the Centre Party's long campaign against bloc politics," Aylott says, rating this constellation unlikely. "Neither the Social Democrats and the Moderates seem remotely inclined to take the major risks that a grand coalition would entail."


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