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Politics in Sweden: What will happen in Swedish politics in 2024?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Politics in Sweden: What will happen in Swedish politics in 2024?
The EU election in June is likely to see tension between pro-EU parties such as the Liberals and the Moderates, and the more sceptical Sweden Democrats and Christian Democrats (whose caps from the 2019 campaign are pictured). Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Will the government's deal with the Sweden Democrats hold? Will all nine party leaders survive? What about the EU elections? Here's our forecast for what will happen in Swedish politics in 2024.


Depending on how you look at it, 2023 was either a near-disaster for Sweden's government or a miraculous success.

Every one of the three government parties has been punished in the polls, with the opposition Social Democrats hoovering up voters unhappy with cooperation with the far-right.

"It is obvious that Tidö cooperation is not working out great for the Moderates as a party," My Rohwedder, political commentator for the Aftonbladet newspaper, told The Local. "Sure, they are happy to lead the government and to have a Moderate prime minister, but as a party they are lost."
In other ways, though, cooperation with the far-right Sweden Democrats has worked surprisingly well, with few outward signs of friction when it comes to negotiating and framing government inquiries, directives and agreements inside the government offices, where the far-right party has its own civil servants. 

What will happen to the government's cooperation with the Sweden Democrats? 

Nicholas Aylott, associate professor of politics at Stockholm's Södertörn University, believes that the support deal with the Sweden Democrats will hold throughout 2024. 

"The likelihood is that co-operation will remain fairly stable," he told The Local. "There have been flare-ups over things like the EU migration regime and petrol prices and there will probably be more as we approach the EU election. For now, though, the deal is working nicely for the Sweden Democrats and tolerably for the government parties." 

Johan Hinnfors, politics professor at Gothenburg University, agreed. 

"Given the huge ideological distance between the Liberals and the openly ’Anti-Liberal’ Sweden Democrats, it’s extraordinary how the confidence-and-supply deal between the government and the Sweden Democrats has held firm," he said.

Rohwedder, meanwhile, points out that the government has no choice but to swallow the more extreme and radical antics of their support party. 

"This government can’t govern without the Sweden Democrats, that is just mathematics. That means there is a strong incentive for the government to keep the Sweden Democrats in a good mood and to be lenient towards them, even if that means painful compromises for the government parties," he said.


Will the government start to deliver results? 

The big problem for the Moderates, Rohwedder argues, has been and will continue to be that they cannot deliver the tax breaks and pro-business, pro-growth reforms their supporters had hoped for.

"Now they are governing with politics that will not cater to their base. No lowered taxes or libertarian reforms as far as the eye can see. This is not the best of times for Moderaterna, and 2024 will not be either," she said. 

The party's strategists are struggling to find ways of winning back so-called Magdamoderaterna -- city-based former Moderate Party voters who support the Social Democrats' leader Magdalena Andersson (who is known as Magda).   
Aylott, however, expects things to look up for the government as the flurry of inquiries it has launched on immigration and  crime start to deliver conclusions. 
"The legislative wheels in Sweden turn excruciatingly slowly, and I think it will help the government when some of its reforms reach the statute book," he said. "It can then claim to be taking concrete steps to address Sweden's serious problems." 


What will happen around the European elections? 

Tension between the Sweden Democrats and the government parties is likely to peak around the European elections on June 9th. 

The Sweden Democrats are already stepping up the rhetoric, calling among other things for a “referendum lock”, which would require a referendum on any major transfer of powers from the national to the EU level.  

"The Sweden Democrats will spy a golden opportunity for a Eurosceptical party," Aylott said. "Its biggest challenge might be to restrain itself, so as not to provoke its allies, the government parties, too much. The Social Democrats, too, will be keen to convert their strong polling into votes, and have a good chance of doing so."

The elections will also be the first time the government parties' poor poll results are translated into parliamentary seats, potentially worsening internal splits. 

" A bad result in June - not unusual in EU elections for the Moderates - and pressure might pile up on Kristersson," Hinnfors predicted. "If, on the other hand, the EU election will prove a success for the Moderates and a disappointment for the Sweden Democrats, a different scenario is that tensions might mount in the Sweden Democrats."

For the Liberals, there is the risk of losing their only MEP, which would risk emboldening MPs opposed to leader Johan Pehrson's decision to join a government supported by the Sweden Democrats. 

For the Green Party -- which has historically done well in the European elections -- a poor result would increase pressure on one leader, Märta Stenevi, who is facing an internal inquiry for her leadership style, while a good one would bolster Daniel Helldén, who was voted in as her joint leader in November. 


Will any of the leaders of Sweden's political parties leave in 2024? 

Neither Aylott, Hinnfors or Rohwedder expect any of the leaders of Sweden's parliamentary parties to step down. 

"Swedish party leaders tend to stick around for a relatively long time. It wouldn't surprise me if all nine - including the Greens' duo - are still in post a year from now," Aylott said. 

"But you never know. The Greens' combined leadership looks to be a rather explosive mix. The Christian Democrats' leader looks tired and frustrated. I doubt that the Liberals' leader will take them into the next election, but a change is more probable later." 

Hinnfors believes that Ebba Busch, leader of the Christian Democrats, might struggle.

"Increasingly, it has become clear that the party is squeezed between the ethno-nationalist Sweden Democrats and the liberal-conservative Moderates," he said. "Some sections of the party showed some discomfort with the hardline right policies and the 2022 election result was poor. A poor EU election result could trigger an internal push against the party leader." 

He also suspects that as government inquiries start to deliver their results, the long smouldering differences between the Sweden Democrats and the Liberals could flare up.   

"There will be moments when especially the Liberals and the Sweden Democrats could potentially clash over issues about liberal values when the inquiries’ suggestions are turned into government proposals," he suggested. "The faction-riddled Liberal Party is also likely to see renewed in-fighting regarding some of the proposals that concern civil liberties." 


Are there any wild cards that could change everything?

As ever, a significant corruption, sexual harassment or government mismanagement scandal could topple a minister, or even a party leader, while a terror attack or natural disaster could make voters rally around the government or else see it condemned for a weak response.

Such things are by their nature unpredictable.

One thing that is predictable, however, is for liberal politicians in conservative parties allied with the far-right to consider forming a new centrist challenger party. This has been done successfully in Denmark and France and unsuccessfully in the UK. 

In the last few weeks of 2023, rumours flared up over a new party which would combine the faction in the Liberal Party opposed to cooperation with the Sweden Democrats, Centre Party figures opposed to the new leader Muharrem Demirok, and people in the Moderate Party opposed to ruling with Sweden Democrat backing. 

In the Expressen newspaper's Politikrummet podcast, the Liberal Party grandees Cecilia Malmström and Birgitta Olsson were named as potential conspirators, as were Ulrica Schenström, the Moderate Party politician who served as State Secretary to the former Moderate Party PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, and Jan Jönsson, the Liberal Party's leader in Stockholm. 

Only four new parties have managed to cross the 4 percent threshold to enter Sweden's parliament in the last century, so any MPs joining such a party would risk seeing their careers derailed in the 2026 election.  

But if it did happen, the new party would only have to win over two MPs from the three government parties to gain the power to vote down a budget or topple the government in a no-confidence motion.

(In theory, they would actually only need one, as the parliament has an independent MP, the climate crisis denier Elsa Widding, but she would vote with the government, although she might extract a price.)


If the government fell, the Social Democrats would then face the challenge of forming a coalition with or backed by the Left Party and Centre Party, who currently say they would not sit in a government together.   

In Denmark, the newly formed Moderates party managed to get more than 9 percent of the votes in the 2022 election only a year after its creation, forcing the Liberal Party (Denmark's version of the Swedish Moderates) to join it in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats.   

But that party was based around Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the two-time Prime Minister who is one of the canniest operators in Danish politics.

It is hard to see a party in Sweden pulling off the same trick without someone of his status, such as Sweden's former PM Fredrik Reinfeldt.

And that really would be a wild card.


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