For members


The ultimate guide to the 2022 Swedish election

What happens on the day, who can vote, and what might a potential government look like after this too-close-to-call election?

The ultimate guide to the 2022 Swedish election
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson writes autographs after a campaign speech in Botkyrka. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

How does the Swedish election work?

Sweden holds three elections on the same day: for parliament (riksdagen), for the 20 regional councils (regioner, formerly known as landsting) and for the 290 municipal councils (kommuner). 

Swedes go to the polls every four years, and the election is always held on the second Sunday of September. This year, that means Election Day falls on September 11th, this coming Sunday.

Who can vote in the Swedish election?

Swedish citizens over the age of 18 may vote in the national elections, and EU citizens plus Icelanders and Norwegians may vote in the regional and municipal elections if they’re in the Swedish population register. Citizens of other countries also get to vote in these two elections if they’ve been in the population register for at least three consecutive years before the vote.

How to vote in the Swedish election

In the weeks leading up to the election, voting cards are sent out to the registered addresses of all eligible voters from the Election Authority (Valmyndigheten). This letter includes information about the location and opening times of your nearest polling station on Election Day. These are usually schools or libraries. It’s also possible to cast your vote in advance (read more HERE).

If you have a good reason (including illness or disability) you can vote by proxy instead, in which case someone else will cast your vote on your behalf.

This article helps explain how to decipher your voting card.

You can vote without your voting card, but you must bring your ID. If you don’t have one, another person with a valid ID can vouch for you. An expired ID can sometimes be accepted, but it is in the end up to the polling station officers to decide whether or not to accept your ID.

At the polling station, there are different ballot papers for each of the three elections: yellow for the parliamentary elections, blue for the regional councils and white for the municipal councils.

There are also different kinds of ballot papers, allowing you to vote either for a particular party (without identifying a specific candidate), to choose from a list of candidates as well as parties, or to vote using a blank ballot paper. Usually only the main parties have printed ballot papers at the polling stations, so on blank ballot papers, you can write down any party and candidate.

You collect the ballots behind a screen so that no one can see which party you plan to vote for. You then get three envelopes from an election officer, and go to a separate screen, behind which you place your ballots in their envelopes. Finally, you hand your vote to an election officer in the room who will put them in a designated box and tick your name off the list. Remember that voting is done by secret ballot, so you do not need to tell anyone who you voted for if you don’t want to.

What do I need to know about Sweden’s political parties?

We’ve got several handy guides on The Local. Here are some of them:

Click HERE for a look at the party leaders and what their parties stand for. 

Click HERE for links to all the Swedish parties’ election manifestos.

We’ve also looked into how the election pledges made in the manifestos of Sweden’s two largest parties (the centre-left Social Democrats and the conservative Moderates) would affect the lives of foreigners in Sweden. Click their party names to get to those two articles on The Local. 

HERE’S another roundup of how the Swedish parties’ election pledges could affect foreigners.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson holds a press conference in Kristianstad. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

How does the next government get picked?

Sweden uses a form of proportional representation called the modified Sainte-Laguë method (jämkade uddatalsmetoden) to allocate seats.

In short: the parties’ total number of votes per constituency are divided by 1.2 in the first round of counting and the first seat gets allocated to whichever party has the highest quotient. In the next round they’re divided by 3, then 5, then 7 and so on. Only parties that have won more than four percent of the vote nationwide (or at least 12 percent of the vote in a specific constituency, although this is unlikely to happen) get counted.

They keep going like this until 310 so-called fixed seats have been allocated. Thirty-nine levelling seats remain and are then allocated to ensure that the parties are proportionally represented.

Once we know how many seats the parties get in parliament, the work to form the next government begins. The incumbent government doesn’t automatically get ousted, so first the prime minister either resigns or says that they want to remain in power – then, parliament votes on whether or not to accept the prime minister’s government. If more than half of the MPs vote no, the prime minister and government must resign, otherwise things remain as they are.

When the prime minister resigns, the speaker of parliament will initiate talks with the party leaders to figure out who is best positioned to form a new government. Sweden usually has a minority government (sometimes made up of a coalition of several parties, sometimes only one party) that enjoys the support of enough other parties in parliament to make up a majority. 

For example, Magdalena Andersson is currently in charge of a Social Democrat government which only has 100 out of 349 seats in parliament, but with the support of the Greens and to some extent the Centre, Left, and one left-leaning independent MP who tends to side with the government, she has a slim majority in parliament. Yes, it’s been an interesting four years.

Then, parliament votes on the speaker’s proposal. If yes, Sweden has a new government. If no, the speaker resumes talks with the parties. This process took 129 days after the 2018 election, a record for Sweden (the previous record was 25 days after the 1979 election) – with polls too close to call less than a week before the election, a repeat of that scenario is not at all unlikely.

What might Sweden’s next government actually look like?

The short and probably most accurate answer is: WHO KNOWS?! 

The medium-length answer is that the left and the right bloc are as we just said incredibly close in the polls. A left-wing government would likely be headed by the Social Democrats, who would likely seek support from the Greens, the Centre and the Left. Easier said than done. The Centre and Left are far apart on issues such as the budget – both are likely to want to be in government if the other party is, but neither will want to be in government together. It’s a conundrum!

A right-wing government might be headed by the conservative Moderates, who are currently the largest opposition party, probably in a government coalition with the Christian Democrats, possibly the Liberals, and with the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament. But there’s an X factor: the Sweden Democrats have been polling higher than the Moderates in some recent polls. If they become the biggest opposition party, will they accept staying on the sidelines?

A grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates is possible, but unlikely. They are each other’s arch rivals, and would only join forces when all other options have been exhausted.

Finally, for the long answer, here’s The Local’s interview with a political scientist.

What happens on election day and when do we get a result?

8am: Polls open (for your polling station’s exact opening times, consult your voting card).

8pm: Polls close.

8pm-ish: The first exit polls are usually released by Swedish television broadcasters around this time. It’s a good idea to take these with a pinch of salt, but since nothing else is going to happen for the next few hours, newspapers will jump at the chance to discuss them nevertheless.

11pm-ish: By this time, enough votes have been counted that we usually have a good idea of where the parties stand. But keep in mind that not only is this a very close election, but also, there are a lot of votes to count! Almost 7.8 million people are eligible to vote in the 2022 parliamentary election (around 270,000 more than in the 2018 election) according to the Election Authority and more than 8.1 million people in the regional and municipal elections. Sweden has a high voter turnout, with 87.18 percent of the eligible population voting in the 2018 election.

Midnight-ish: As the evening draws to a close, the party leaders will address crowds at their respective election night parties, and you can probably expect that the opposition parties will call on the prime minister to resign. The incumbent prime minister is usually the last one to take the stage, so try to stay awake until Magdalena Andersson announces her plans for the future.

One thing you need to remember is that although everyone will act as if we have a result at this point, it is in fact just a preliminary result as not all votes have yet been counted. Votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on the Wednesday after the election, that is September 14th. 

Election officers take around a week to complete the final count of the votes after they’ve been counted and recounted, and the final allocation of seats in parliament may take up to two weeks. 

If Magdalena Andersson doesn’t resign, September 27th is the earliest day that parliament can hold their vote on forcing her resignation. In the meantime she leads a caretaker government.

Sweden Democrat ballot papers and a picture of party leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Are there any other articles you recommend I read before the election?

Yes! And please feel free to share them with friends. To read, click the links below.

“If the right bloc wins next weekend’s Swedish election, how much influence could the Sweden Democrats demand?” Journalism lecturer David Crouch asks what a government for the first time backed by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would actually look like. 

Chinatown, Somalitown or Little Italy? Stockholm University associate professor Andrea Voyer lists six things Swedish politicians get wrong about immigration, integration and segregation.

As we mentioned above, you may be able to vote in Sweden’s regional and municipal elections even if you’re not a citizen. Here’s who currently controls these areas, and what power they have.

“I’ve found the focus on foreigners very confronting. Foreigners seem to be presented as the source of all Sweden’s problems. I worry this is a message that will impact my children.” Last month, we asked The Local’s readers how they feel about the election.

What have the Sweden Democrats proved in four years of municipal rule? On a visit to Sölvesborg, The Local’s Richard Orange found surprisingly few angry or dissatisfied citizens.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats enacted the first stage of their work permit reform plan on June 1st, and have announced further plans to tighten up the work permit system. But where do Sweden’s other political parties stand on labour migration? The Local explains in this article.

Since dropping its objection to working with the once-pariah Sweden Democrats in late 2019, the centre-right Moderate Party has changed enormously. The Local asked three experts: is it even the same party which fought the 2018 election?

Why is the climate crisis not a bigger issue? The Local asked journalist and sociologist Dominic Hinde to explain how Sweden views the climate crisis – and how to figure out who to vote for.

We’ve also done interviews with several key political players:

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson: ‘Tough rhetoric on immigration? I don’t think so’

Centre Party deputy leader Martin Ådahl: Sweden has been ruled for four years on ‘essentially the Centre Party’s programme

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar: ‘Immigrants and Swedes need the same things’

Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch: ‘We’re trying to make a shift in Swedish immigration policy’

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson: ‘The Sweden Democrats are needed in government’ 

Green Party leader Märta Stenevi: ‘We can’t be focused on the environment as a niche issue’

Migration Minister Anders Ygeman: ‘We don’t want people to be just semi-Swedes’

How will The Local cover the election?

We’ll run a live blog on the night, and our team will report straight from the parties’ election night events, chasing interviews with senior party officials and pundits to get you the latest news. 

If you want to get in touch with us, email our editorial team at [email protected]

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Why is Sweden’s parliamentary speaker election so important?

Sweden's parliamentary speaker is second only to the King in terms of formal rank. The prospect of a Sweden Democrat speaker taking over the role from popular Moderate Andreas Norlén has sparked debate. Here's why.

Why is Sweden's parliamentary speaker election so important?

On Monday, Sweden’s newly-elected parliament will elect a new speaker – talman in Swedish, but it’s still not clear who is likely to take over the post from Moderate Andreas Norlén, who has held the position since 2018.

How is a speaker candidate usually chosen?

There is no formal rule on how a speaker candidate is nominated, with the Social Democrats usually insisting the largest party supplies the speaker, and the Moderates arguing that the largest party in their bloc should provide the speaker.

Until now, that has meant that the Social Democrats believe the speaker should be a Social Democrat, and the Moderates believe the speaker should be a Moderate.

However, with the Sweden Democrats now the second-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, they have made claims on the speaker post, as they are now the largest party in their bloc, meaning under the Moderates’ rules, they should supply the speaker.

This has made the question of who should take over as the new speaker unusually charged.

Often – but not always, the speaker has been from the same party or bloc as the government. However, there are examples, such as in the case of Norlén, who has held the post despite there being a Social Democrat government for the last eight years, as there was a majority supporting him in parliament.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson sits down for a talk with Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

How is the speaker elected?

The first time parliament meets after an election, members of parliament (MPs) decide which MP will become the parliamentary speaker and which three MPs will become the deputy speakers. These four speakers are elected in separate ballots, first the speaker, then the first deputy speaker, the second deputy speaker and the third deputy speaker.

The candidates are nominated by parliamentary party groups, after which a secret ballot is held where each MP votes anonymously. To be successful, a speaker candidate must secure a majority of votes – 175.

If no candidate secures a majority, another vote is held, where a candidate must still gain 175 or more votes to win.

If no candidate is successful, a third vote is held, where the candidate with the most votes is elected – they do not need a majority.

If the third vote ends in a tie between two candidates, lots are drawn to determine which candidate is elected speaker.

A speaker is elected for an entire election period – they cannot be removed by parliament during this period, and the role can only change hands after a new parliamentary election, which usually means that a speaker sits for four years at a time.

What does the speaker do?

The speaker – aside from being the second-highest ranking official in the country after the King – holds a prestigious position.

They do not have political influence and, if elected, must resign from their role as a member of parliament. But they have an important role to play in building a government, nominating Sweden’s new prime minister after an election and dismissing the prime minister if they lose a no-confidence vote.

Although there are checks on these powers – a new prime minister must be approved by parliament before they take power – a speaker could, theoretically, nominate four prime ministerial candidates to parliament in succession, knowing that each would lose a parliamentary vote, and thereby trigger a general election.

The speaker, currently Andreas Norlén (left) regularly welcomes foreign dignitaries alongside Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf. Here seen with King Carl Gustaf (left) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö (centre).
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The speaker could also theoretically refuse to nominate a prime ministerial candidate despite them being the leader of the largest bloc, although this has never happened in practice.

It is also impossible for parliament to remove a speaker once they are elected, unless a new parliamentary election is held and an entire new parliament is elected, meaning that if a speaker were to misuse their powers, it would be difficult for parliament to replace them.

The speaker is the main representative of parliament, leading and planning parliamentary activities. The speaker is chairman of meetings in the parliamentary chamber and is an official representative for Sweden at home and abroad.

Why would it be controversial if the Sweden Democrats supplied the speaker?

Electing a Sweden Democrat speaker would be a win for the far-right party, as a confirmation that the party has finally been accepted into the corridors of power.

According to a source at newspaper Aftonbladet, the four parties backing Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson to become Sweden’s next prime minister have already agreed on stricter migration and crime policies, as well as who should be voted in as speaker of the country’s parliament when the role goes up for a vote on Monday. 

Multiple parties in the left-wing bloc have objected to a Sweden Democrat supplying the speaker, with outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stating that her party is willing to collaborate with the Moderates and reelect Andreas Norlén as Sweden’s speaker instead in order to avoid a Sweden Democrat taking on the role.

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.”

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat speaker, something she said would be “problematic”.

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.”

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson has not responded to Andersson’s comments.

Sweden Democrat former deputy speaker Björn Söder (left) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (right). Photo: Jessica Gow//TT

There are also some MPs in the Liberal Party – who have agreed to support a Moderate-led government alongside the Sweden Democrats – who have stated they will not approve a government with Sweden Democrat ministers, and may also vote against letting them have the role of speaker.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, who held the role of deputy speaker between 2014-18, is a possible candidate for the far-right party. Söder is a controversial figure, having previously stated that Jewish people and Sami are “not Swedes”, leading to calls that he is not suitable for a role as a representative for all of Sweden.

Söder has also previously likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, stating in an article on the Sweden Democrats’ official online news site that “these sexual aversions are not normal and will never be normal”.

A public petition against electing Björn Söder as parliament’s new speaker had over 65,000 signatures as of September 23rd.