Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Swedish elections-the end for the Reinfeldt government?

On the 14th of September, there will be a general election in Sweden. Sweden has a multi-party system, with one-party governments being incredibly rare. There are eight parties in the Swedish Rikstag (parliament), and the largest party (the Social Democrats) only have about 30% of the seats.

The current government of Sweden is led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. He leads a four-party minority government consisting of the Moderate, Liberal People's, Centre, and Christian Democrats. The government has only 173 seats, and is therefore currently dependent on either one of the opposition parties (Social Democrats, Greens and Left) or the hard-right Sweden Democrats.

The current government has been ruling for two terms: since 2006. It is the first centre-right government to be re-elected in Sweden since the Second World War.

At this election, the opinion polls have consistently had the Social Democrats in the lead, with about 30%-34% of the vote. Technically, they were the largest party at the last election, but they had slightly fewer votes and somewhat smaller coalition parties. With the Greens polling at around 10%, and the Left Party up to around 6-7%, a Red-Green coalition would be very close to a majority, if not actually having one.

An interesting influence on the upcoming election appears to be the Feminist Initiative party. A left-wing, feminist party formed in 2005, the party won its first seats at the recent European Parliament elections, winning 5.5% of the vote. Remember, under Sweden's two-tier district based system of proportional representation, a party needs 4% of the vote to win seats. The Feminist Initiative is polling at around 3%, but, seeing as the party will almost certainly support a red-green coalition, there may be some 'lending' of voters from the Social Democrats or Greens to the Initiative to ensure that the votes are not wasted.

Another important factor in the upcoming election may be the Sweden Democrats. A far-right, anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats have only recently entered parliament. At the last election, they won about 5% of the vote, and about 20 seats. The graph below shows how they hold the balance of power.
As you can see, the Sweden Democrats are in a somewhat pivotal position. Seeing as they are polling at around 8-10%, if the Red-Greens fall short of a majority, their support may be key to some government measures. The Sweden Democrats are left of centre on economic issues, so it appears likely that programs dealing with increased social spending would not be held up by the party.

Swedish politics has changed significantly over the past decades. The old hegemony for the Social Democrats has disappeared (even if they win this election, the performance will still be one of the worst for them as a party). The right-wing has new power, the Green Party has established itself as an essential part of any future Social Democrat government, and, perhaps most importantly, the Sweden Democrats, a previously marginalised group, have new and previously unimagined power.

UPDATE 16/09: The results are in. The Sweden Democrats did rather well (12.9% and 49 seats, a virtual doubling of their support). The Moderates did badly, losing 23 seats and slumping to 23.2% of the vote. The Feminist Initiative did not cross the threshold, ending up with 3.1% and no seats.

The Red-Green coalition do not have a majority (158 out of 175 needed for a majority) and the more left-leaning rightist parties (the Centre or Liberal People's parties) have rejected a deal with the Red-Greens. The most likely outcome is a minority Red-Green government.


  1. Is there any evidence of 'vote-lending' by voters in other countries, other than at the urge of party leaders (as in some German states)? - JD

    1. I was thinking about more informal vote lending, and in hindsight I probably put it down wrong. I was thinking more voters who prefer the Feminist Initiative but intended to vote Green or Social Democrat noticing that the Initiative is close to the threshold and voting for them. I'm not sure if this has happened before in Sweden, but it does appear to be a rather rare occurance worldwide, except in New Zealand for MMP


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