Election preview: Sweden

Sweden goes to the polls on Sunday, with the centre-left government of prime minister Magdalena Andersson seeking re-election. Andersson, who is Sweden’s first female leader, took office last December on the retirement of her predecessor, Stefan Löfven, although there was a hiatus of inter-party bargaining before she was able to win a vote of confidence.

Voting is straight proportional representation (Sainte-Laguë), with a 4% threshold. Eight parties won seats last time, and probably will again. The four that support the Andersson government (although only the Social Democrats currently sit in the cabinet) won a bare majority, 175 of the 349 seats: 100 Social Democrats, 31 Centre (liberal-agrarian), 28 Left (post-Communists) and 16 Greens. (Official results here.)

The four parties opposed to them are all on the right, but, like the government side, they cover some ideological breadth. Two are centre-right; the Moderates with 70 seats and the Christian Democrats with 22. The Liberals (right-liberal) won 20 seats and the far-right Sweden Democrats 62. The latter have recently tried to move away from their neo-fascist origins (they sit with the Eurosceptics rather than the far right in the European parliament), but their appeal is still heavily based on opposition to non-white immigration.

The Centre started out in alliance with the centre-right, but both it and the Liberals moved to support the Social Democrats after the last election rather than deal with the far right. Last year, following a dispute over rent control, the Liberals moved back to the centre-right, leaving the government with its current precarious majority. In the meantime, the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats have been running neck-and-neck in the polls, although both remain behind the Social Democrats, who have topped the poll at every election since 1917.

A lot else has happened in Sweden in the last four years. Its early experience of the Covid-19 pandemic was controversial, with Löfven becoming an unlikely poster child for “libertarians” due to his avoidance of a lockdown. Then this year the invasion of Ukraine led Sweden to abandon its historic neutrality and apply for membership of NATO; the Greens and (to a lesser extent) the Left remain opposed, but the Sweden Democrats have given their support.

Despite all this, the opinion polls show remarkably little change since 2018. The Social Democrats retain a clear lead, polling in the high 20s; the Moderates and Sweden Democrats are both in the high teens, with the far right apparently just ahead. The others have barely moved: the Left climbed above 10% last year but is now back to around 8%, where it started; the Greens have followed the opposite trajectory, dipping below the threshold for a time but now sitting on a more comfortable 6%.

But of course the effect of the government having such a wafer-thin majority is that even a tiny movement could be very significant. Something like 51-49 in Andersson’s favor looks reasonably likely, but it wouldn’t take much for it come out at 51-49 the other way, and hence potentially deal the far right into government.

Counting is usually pretty swift, so results should be available by breakfast time on Monday in eastern Australia.


One thought on “Election preview: Sweden

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.