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SWEDEN ELECTS: Well, who exactly did Sweden elect? It’s not entirely clear

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren looks at how election night unfolded, and what happens next.

SWEDEN ELECTS: Well, who exactly did Sweden elect? It's not entirely clear
Moderate party leader Ulf Kristersson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT


The left bloc and the right bloc were neck-and-neck in the preliminary results of Sweden’s election, published in the wee hours of Monday.

It was a strange night. When the exit polls first came in, and the districts began to count their votes, it initially appeared as though the left bloc would manage to cling on to government – but after the majority of districts had declared, the balance of power tilted in the right side’s favour.

It looks like Sweden might possibly be heading for a change of government, with the right bloc (consisting of the Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and Liberals) on Monday morning just one seat ahead of the left (Social Democrats, Centre, Left and Greens).

I try to hedge my bets when writing this column though, because these results are preliminary only and it’s a narrow election. Votes from Swedish citizens abroad and any early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on Wednesday.

In the last election, three seats changed between Election Day and the final count, with one flying back and forth between the Centre Party and the Sweden Democrats – often referred to by Swedish political pundits as mandatpingis, likening the seat allocation to a game of table tennis.

So don’t rejoice or grieve too much, at least not yet.

Even most of the party leaders were careful not to claim victory in their midnight speeches, warning that we need to wait another couple of days.

Despite their bloc leading, it looks like a disastrous election for the conservative Moderate Party, who have long been Sweden’s leader of the opposition. Not because they did much worse than in the 2018 election (they didn’t), but because they were overtaken by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrat party as the largest right-wing party.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, on the other hand, bounded onto stage to chants of “sha-la-la-la-la” at his election party, exclaiming that their 20-something percent meant they were “a big party, for real”.

Even he was a tad cautious about claiming outright victory for the right bloc, but with only a few ten thousands of votes left to be counted, it’s going to be difficult for the left side to make up the difference.

So what happens now?

First, we need to wait for Sweden to finish counting the votes and allocate the seats in parliament. Then, the work to form the next government begins. The incumbent government doesn’t automatically get ousted, so first parliament will have to vote on whether or not to accept Magdalena Andersson (let’s assume based on the current results that they won’t).

If, or currently more likely, when, the prime minister is then forced out in that vote, the speaker of parliament will initiate talks with the party leaders to figure out who is best positioned to form a new government.

That could be the Sweden Democrats, as the biggest party of the right wing. But it could also be the Moderates, since their leader Ulf Kristersson enjoys the support of more right wing parties than Åkesson does.

In any case, the road ahead is unclear.

The other parties in the right bloc have previously said that although they want the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament, they would rather not have them in government thanksverymuch.

But that was when the Moderates were still the largest right-wing party. With the Sweden Democrats now outperforming them, their negotiating power has grown considerably, but it may be too big an ask for the others.

Two of the questions that remain are: Will the Sweden Democrats accept not being part of a right-wing government despite being the largest right-wing party? Or will the other right-wing parties be able to stomach allowing the far-right into government for the first time in Sweden?

Both seem equally unlikely at the moment, but the only reward that may be sweet enough for the right-wing parties to accept significant concessions is the chance to oust the centre-left Social Democrats.

In the run-up to the election, The Local looked at how the Sweden Democrats could change life for foreigners in Sweden if they do get the influence they want. Here’s a link to our analysis.

On the left side, Andersson’s success will depend on how willing the Centre Party and the Left Party are to put aside their differences and work together. The two parties are united in their dislike of the Sweden Democrats, but they remain so far apart on other key issues such as the budget that any formal collaboration is unpalatable to both.

But again, let’s remember that the final result is not yet in. Votes from Swedes abroad tend to lean right, but it is not clear how many early voting ballots remain to be counted. It could still go either way.

The Local live blogged Election Night, and it’s worth a read to catch up on what happened. We’ve got plenty of interviews with experts and senior party representatives, and we’ll spend the coming days and weeks putting the election result in context for foreign residents in Sweden.

We’re also aiming to publish a special election episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast later today, so keep an eye out for the next episode to drop.

Thanks for following our election coverage and for reading this column.

Best wishes,

Emma Löfgren

Editor, The Local Sweden

Sweden Elects is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

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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.