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EXPLAINED: Why we might have to wait until Thursday for Sweden’s final election result

While most of the votes in Sweden's 2022 election have been counted, the result is still too close to call and we have to wait a few days to find out who comes out on top.

EXPLAINED: Why we might have to wait until Thursday for Sweden's final election result
Election officials carry out the 'Wednesday Count' in Malmö town hall after the 2018 election. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

With mainly votes cast in early voting and overseas votes left to count, the parties supporting Ulf Kristersson for PM have a one seat majority. How secure is their lead and could the Left bloc still clinch it?

What’s the current situation with votes counted? 

The latest figures from Sweden’s Election Authority, from 4.24am on Monday morning, would give 175 seats in parliament to the Moderates, Sweden Democrats, Christian Democrats and Liberal Party, all of which support Ulf Kristersson as Prime Minister. 

This is just one seat ahead of the 174 seats which would be won by the Social Democrats, Left Party, Green Party, and Centre Party. 

How many votes have been counted? 

The latest figures are with 6,243 of 6,578 election districts and 95 percent of the votes counted, so there is still a slim possibility that one or more seats could flip over to the other side. 

The remaining votes are divided between early votes and overseas votes which have not yet reached the election district where they need to be counted.  

In 2018, the authority counted 202,000 votes in the days after election night, and this year it expects this number to be greater because of the rise in early voting, with many Swedes voting at early voting polling stations on the day before the election and even on election day itself if they could not get to the polling station where they are registered. 

Among those, there are expected to be about 70,000 votes from Swedes living overseas. 

“These votes didn’t have time to reach the polling stations to be counted yesterday, so they will be counted on Wednesday,” Anna Nyqvist from the authority told TT. “We think a lot of people voted at early voting stations yesterday, but we won’t know for sure until later today.” 

When will the votes be counted? 

To give election officials a bit of a break after their efforts on election day and election night, the late votes are counted in the so-called onsdagsräkningen, or Wednesday vote count, with the Election Authority expecting the process to drag on into Thursday this year. 

Could the Wednesday count change the result?

Svante Linusson, a professor in Maths and election expert at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, told Dagens Nyheter that it was unlikely, but not impossible. 

After the 2018 election, one mandate changed sides on the Wednesday after the election, but Linusson said that because the Social Democrats, Left Party, Green Party, and Centre Party had already won the most recent four mandates, this meant that they would need to get a higher share of the remaining votes to win back further seats. 

“It means that it needs to go really, really well for them when the remaining votes are counted. It’s not enough for them to get the majority of the remaining votes.”

In 1979, the overseas votes were enough to lose the Social Democrats their majority. 

Who do early voters usually vote for? 

It’s very hard to tell for certain as early and overseas votes are lumped together in the Wednesday count, but there are some indications that the Sweden Democrats are slightly overrepresented among early voters, as “shy Sweden Democrats” want to vote away from the polling station where they are registered so that they are not seen voting for an anti-immigrant party. 

It’s possible that this will be less of a factor now the party has been more normalised, and also since reforms to the voting procedure allowed voters to select ballot papers in a private booth. 

Who do overseas Swedes normally vote for? 

The Election Authority’s latest survey of overseas Swedes, carried out by Gothenburg University’s SOM Institute in 2014, found that they were generally slanted towards the right-wing, with 36 percent voting Moderate compared to 23 percent in that year’s election, and only 15 percent voting for the Social Democrats compared to 15 percent in that election. 

The Green Party, the Liberal Party and the Centre Party were also slightly over-represented among overseas voters, while the Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats were slightly under-represented. 

Anders Lindberg, a leader writer for the Aftonbladet newspaper told AFP it now looked “impossible for the left to win because the votes from abroad are… usually in favour of the right”.

But he may not be correct. 

“There is no systematic pattern that supports the idea that the votes that are added have a right-wing tendency,” Maria Solevid, the associate professor at the University of Gothenburg who helped carry out the 2014 survey, told The Local. 

As for the survey, no one knows how these expatriate voters will have been reacted to the Moderate Party’s decision to accept the support of the Sweden Democrats, which the Moderates still treated as an untouchable pariah party back in 2014. 

The Moderate Party has also worked hard to woo overseas voters during the campaign, sending out more than 160,000 letters to Swedes living overseas with a personal greeting from Ulf Kristersson.

The Centre Party has also been trying to win their votes over from the Moderate Party, sending them around 45,000 letters warning them of the danger of Sweden Democrat influence.

How do the mandates normally shift between Sunday and Wednesday? 

According to Solevid, if you look back in history and compare the Sunday night results in Swedish election and the Wednesday night result, there is no evidence of a right-wing shift. 

In 2018, the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Sweden Democrats all lost one mandate in the Wednesday count, while the Centre Party, Green Party and Liberal Parties all gained one. In 2014, the Christian Democrats lost a mandate and the Green Party gained one. In 2010, the Centre Party gained a seat and the Social Democrats lost one, and in elections before that, mandates also shifted in all directions. 

“We cannot say whether there will be any shift, and we cannot predict how the shift would look like, or say that it will always be to the right,” she concluded. 

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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.