SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren explains how Sweden's parliamentary committees work – and the role the Sweden Democrats will play in them.

Sweden Elects: How powerful are the Sweden Democrats now?
The opening of parliament last week. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Hej,

The speaker of parliament has given Ulf Kristersson, leader of the conservative Moderates and the likely next prime minister of Sweden, October 12th as a deadline to conclude his government negotiations.

If Kristersson comes up with a viable proposal for a ruling coalition, the speaker will put that proposal to parliament within four days. Chances are Sweden will have its new right-wing government by mid-October.

What will that government look like? Most likely, it will consist of at least the Moderates and the Christian Democrats. Rumours have it Kristersson is hoping to bring the Liberals into the governmental fold, and it is unlikely that the far-right Sweden Democrats will be part of the government.

But anyone who thinks the latter means they will be left on the sidelines is mistaken. They will have demanded significant concessions in order to support Kristersson’s government (and especially to make way for the Liberals) from parliament, and judging from recent news, they got them.

In a joint press release last week, the right wing – the Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Sweden Democrats – said they had reached a deal on how to share responsibility for their parliamentary committees.

There are 15 committees in the Swedish parliament, seats on which are held by members of parliament, with larger parties getting more seats as well as more high-ranking roles such as chair and deputy chair.

The right wing is after this election entitled to 16 chair and deputy chair roles, and the Sweden Democrats will get half of those, the parties agreed. The key thing that many political pundits were keeping an eye on was which committees, as that tells us a lot about how far they got in their negotiations with the other right-wing parties. The answer: far.

The Sweden Democrats will get to chair the Justice, Foreign Affairs, Labour Market, and Industry and Trade Committees – all heavyweight committees. 

Their most high-profile appointment is Richard Jomshof, one of the most senior Sweden Democrats who in the run-up to the election gave an anti-Islam speech (not the first time). He will chair the Justice Committee.

The Moderates will chair the Finance and Social Insurance Committees (plus the EU Committee), the Christian Democrats will chair the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Liberals will chair the Education Committee.

On the other side, the left-wing parties will get to chair the Defence, Taxation, Constitution, Civil Affairs, Transport and Communications, Environment and Agriculture, and Cultural Affairs Committees.

So what exactly do the parliamentary committees do, and how much influence will the Sweden Democrats now have over legislation?

The votes of every member of the committees count equally (there are at least 15 members on every committee, representing the various parties from left to right), and the chair gets the final vote if there’s a tie. He or she also has influence over the committee’s agenda and over how meetings are directed, with the position also bringing prestige.

All government bills and proposals by members of parliament first go through one of the committees before they can be put to the main chamber for a vote. The committee adopts a position on the proposal and although the final decision rests with the 349 members of the main chamber, they usually vote for the committee’s position since the make-up of their members represent the parties in parliament.

Although chair positions give them a procedural advantage, the Sweden Democrats won’t have unlimited power over their committees, since as I said, the other parties have seats too and their votes count equally.

The main benefit for the Sweden Democrats is rather the soft power it gives them. The chair is the face of the parliamentary committee, and these senior roles will force the other parties to take them seriously.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that they’ll have enough seats on each committee that they will have a key kingmaker role where they can side either with the government or the opposition – giving them fairly significant negotiating power when it comes to future legislation.

In other news, the Swedish parliament last week re-elected the popular Andreas Norlén as speaker, it’s been taking much longer than usual to get a work permit (here’s why) and foreigners are calling for the Migration Agency to issue special visas to allow those affected by renewal delays to leave Sweden and return, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has stopped leaking gas, and households in Sweden are starting to feel the economic squeeze.

In the latest episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast, host Paul O’Mahony is joined by Handelsbanken chief economist Johan Löf, as well as The Local’s Becky Waterton, Richard Orange and James Savage.

Many thanks to everyone who’s got in touch lately with your thoughts and feedback about Sweden Elects. I’m happy it’s useful to you. If you have any questions about Swedish politics, you’re always welcome to get in touch.

Best wishes,

Emma

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.

Member comments

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

MIGRATION

KEY POINTS: What we know so far about Sweden’s first census in more than 30 years

Sweden's new right-wing government has promised to carry out the first national census in more than 30 years. What do we know about the plans, and when or if it is likely to happen?

KEY POINTS: What we know so far about Sweden's first census in more than 30 years

What has the government so far said about its plans? 

In the Tidö Agreement between the three parties in the government coalition and the far-Right Sweden Democrats, it says that  “work shall be carried out to prepare a large-scale national census”. 

According to the agreement, work would start with an individual (or perhaps agency) being given a “myndighetsöverskridande uppdrag“, a charge which will give them power over several government agencies, to prepare how to carry out such a census. 

The agreement also calls for changes to make it “easier to trace afterward who has been registered in a certain apartment or property in order to prosecute civil registration offences.”

In the regeringsförklaring, the speech made by Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson laying out the government’s plans the language is stronger. It says that “a census shall be carried out and coordination numbers which are not confirmed will be recalled”.  

Then in the coming budget, the government has set aside nearly 500m kronor for carrying out a budget, with 80m to be spent in 2023, 170m in 2024 and a further 170m in 2025. 

READ ALSO: How does Sweden’s new government want to change migration policy? 

While the language in the Tidö Agreement suggests only that preparatory work need be done during this mandate period, the language in Kristersson’s speech indicates that the actual census will be carried out.

The budget allocations, however, do not look large enough to carry out the sort of full-scale census the parties have promised. 

“The way they spoke about the census [during the campaign], it will require a massive amount of money and and resources. And since they have not allocated those resources in the budget, we are wondering what is happening,” Peder Björk, a Social Democrat MP who sits on the tax committee, told The Local. 

“The 500m kronor indicated for the coming three years,” he said, was “not even close to enough to do the kind of census that they have been talking about”. 

“We are afraid that they will take money that could be used for other important work at the Tax Authority, and use it for the census.”

Björk on December 1st, submitted a parliamentary question to the government asking for clarification about its plans. 

What do we know about how the census will take place? 

Richard Jomshof, the Sweden Democrat chair of the parliament’s Justice Committee, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper this week that he believed that this census would require an “outreach organisation”, with teams of officials visiting homes around the country to check that those, and only those, registered there are living there. 

In a written statement to DN, Sweden’s Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson confirmed that officials would be required to visit some citizens’ homes, with “targeted checks in areas where there is considered to be a significant risk of incorrect registration in the population register”.

In a proposal made in 2020, the Moderate Party suggested that the Swedish Tax Agency should lead the census, with Statistics Sweden, the Police Agency, and local municipalities and regions working under it.  

The census will primarily be carried out digitally, with people encouraged to verify their details online, or, failing that through filling in a physical form. 

According to the 2020 proposal, the relevant authorities would only make home visits to areas where there is a suspected high level of false registration, or to homes where an unusually large number of people are registered, or to homes where the people registered changes very frequently. 

Anyone who is not registered in the census would immediately lose their right to welfare benefits according to the proposal. 

When did Sweden last have a census? 

Sweden has not had a census since 1990, when the country switched from having a questionnaire-based system to having a registry-based system, where each individual has to be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency in order to access government services, health, and welfare. 

Up until 1990, Sweden carried out regular censuses. Between 1965 and 1990, a census and housing register was carried out every five years. From 1955 until 1965, a census was carried out every five years, and from 1930 until 1955,  a census was carried out every ten years.

Why is there such pressure to have a new census? 

Sweden’s population has grown by close to two million people since the last census, from 8.6m in 1990 to 10.4m in 2020. 

While most of those people are represented in the national register, there have been growing concerns about the number of people living in Sweden illegally, some of whom are not registered at all, of people being registered as living at a false address, or of the large number of identity numbers that do not correspond to a real person. 

The Swedish Tax Agency has estimated that as many as 200,000 people are registered as living at the wrong address in Sweden, with criminals accused of registering themselves at the wrong address to avoid the police and debt collection agencies.

What have the parties’ policies been?  

For the Sweden Democrats, this has long been a campaigning issue, with the party claiming that relying on registration means that no one knows for sure who is living in Sweden.

“Sweden has lost control of the situation when it comes to who is living in the country and who is registered,” Sweden Democrat MP David Lang wrote in a 2021 motion to the parliament calling for a census. 

In 2020, the Moderate Party started to campaign for a census and in launching an initiative in the parliament’s tax committee

In April 2022, Sweden’s parliament voted in favour of a Moderate-party led proposal to carry one out. (Ibrahim Baylan, Sweden’s former business minister, voted against Social Democrat party line by mistake, allowing the motion to pass.)

The then Social Democrat-led government refused to act on parliament’s decision, however. 

“The registry-based system,” Ida Karkalainen, the then minister of social affairs, said was “simpler for the population” and allowed “better and more up-to-date statistics”. 

The Social Democrat approach has been instead to take actions to improve the registration system, developing, for example, the proposal passed this week which will require people holding coordination numbers to visit the Tax Agency with some ID to prove their identity. The party has argued that holding a separate census would both be costly and unnecessary. 

Which other countries in Europe have recently carried out censuses? 

Germany carried out a national census this year, with the stated aim being to “determine how many people live in Germany and how they live and work”. 

The UK carried out a census in 2021, with the results published this year. 

SHOW COMMENTS