Elections in Sweden: the right-wing bloc wins and the far-right rises

The political polarization experienced by party systems in Europe also affects Sweden. Of the 349 seats in the Swedish parliament, the so-called “red-green block” (the block made up of progressive parties) obtains 173 seats compared to 176 for the Alliance block (conservative block).

The final results of the general elections in Sweden held on Sunday September 11 have been counted on Wednesday 14, with the foreign vote and the vote by mail. According to its Constitution, regional and municipal elections are also held on the same day as general elections.

The rise of the Social Democrats by 2.1 points compared to the last 2018 elections, with 30.4% of the votes and 107 seats, makes them the undoubted winner of the elections in terms of votes and seats, also obtaining the majority counties (regions) and municipalities in the country, achieving the best match result in 20 years.

But this Social Democratic victory is insufficient to strengthen the terrain of his bloc, given the emergence of the extreme right as the second most voted party. 176 seats for the right and the extreme right compared to the 173 agglutinated around the social democrat Magdalena Andersson make visible a change in the orientation of the Swedish government for the next four years, which has led to the resignation of the prime minister.

The Swedish electoral system

The distribution of seats in Swedish elections is calculated using the so-called smoothed odd number method.

The main Swedish parties:

  • The Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokraterna-S): Founded in 1889, it is the oldest party in Sweden. With the latest recorded data, it manages to rise from 100 to 107 seats out of 349. For the first time, this party has presented a woman as a candidate, the former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, elected party leader after the resignation of Stefan Löfven, in power since 2012.

    In the 2018 elections, a government agreement was reached in Sweden between social democrats (S) and “greens” (MP), with the support of liberals (L) and centrists (C), isolating the extreme right in the negotiations. An agreement was reached with the Left Party (V), which had the crucial votes to give the new government a free pass, an agreement reluctantly signed for having been left out of any influence and representation in the design of the new ministerial cabinet. In those general elections, the parties of the left-wing bloc won 144 seats out of 349, compared to 143 seats for the (conservative) Alliance bloc, leaving the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democrats out of the two blocs, which won 62 seats.

The former Swedish Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, during a rally in Stockholm.
Shutterstock / Liv Oeian
  • The Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna-SD): nationalist and eurosceptic party, leaning towards the extreme right, founded in 1988. In 2010 it obtained parliamentary representation for the first time. In 2022 it has managed to go from 62 deputies to 73. It is not part of the conservative bloc La Alianza, having not cooperated so far with either of the two blocs in the Riksdag.

    His strategy will be based on wanting to be decisive in the formation of the next ministerial cabinet by being in second position, although the government agreement between the conservative parties is closed around the moderates. One of its leaders resigned to found the new radical party Alternatives for Sweden in 2018.

    Relating crime to immigration used to be impossible and now it does not attract as much rejection and defends, among others, the elimination of the right to family reunification for refugees. They affect the threat to social cohesion and have abandoned anti-abortion positions from previous years.

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Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, during a street rally in Umeå, Sweden.
Shutterstock / Sune Grabbe
  • The Moderate Party (Moderaterna-M): conservative center-right party, founded in 1904. It drops from 70 to 68 deputies and its commitment to lead the right-wing bloc places it as a strong leader.
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Election poster of Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party.
Shutterstock / Tupungato
  • Center Party (Centerpartiet-C): center-right liberal and agrarian party, founded in 1913. Down from 31 to 24 deputies; little presence in Parliament when in 1976 he formed Sweden’s first non-social democratic government since 1936. Its current leader, Annie Lööf, was closer to Andersson’s theses than to those of the Moderate Party.

  • Left Party (Vänsterpartiet-V): socialist party leaning to its left, with great weight of eurosceptic postulates. It was founded in 1917 as a split from the Social Democratic Party and went from 28 deputies to 24.

  • Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna-KD): center-right Christian Democratic party, it was founded in 1964. It went from 22 deputies to 19.

  • Green Party (Miljöpartiet-MP): center-left environmentalist party, it was founded in 1981. It goes from 16 deputies to 18.

  • Liberal Party (Liberalerna-L): liberal center-right party, which was founded in 1934. It goes from 20 deputies to 16.

Entry into NATO

In an atypical electoral campaign in which the debate has not focused on traditional issues such as taxes, schools and health care, neither have issues such as Sweden’s accession to NATO and the management of the pandemic received greater space.

Sweden, which has always been characterized as being on the “axis of non-alignment”, which made it characterize itself as a neutral country against the US and the USSR in the Cold War, decided to join NATO in 2022 together with Finland , leaving the list of neutral countries reduced to three, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland.

In Sweden, this turn in politics has not been surprising, and less so on the island of Gotland. Any initiative to protect itself against the growing warmongering of neighboring Russia, especially since the invasion of Ukraine, has been well received by public opinion, with a favorable view of joining NATO, according to the results published by Demoskop of a survey commissioned by the Swedish social democratic newspaper Aftonbladet in April 2022.

Everything points to a government of Ulf Kristersson

For now, everything points to a government presided over by the leader of the moderates, Ulf Kristersson, with a closed agreement with the Christian Democratic Party since before the campaign, now open to negotiating with the extreme right, underlining reasons of “arithmetic force”, with the possibility of major political concessions to Sweden Democrats if Kristersson wishes to keep them out of government.

The new government faces important challenges such as combating street violence that has escalated in the suburbs of large cities, rising energy prices and inflation, and, among others, a large migration that has not been reciprocated with a successful rate of integration, which has changed the agenda of the parties around this issue, especially since the European refugee crisis of 2015.

The triumph of the quartet made up of the nationalists of the Swedish Democrats, the moderates, the Christian Democrats and the liberals is clear, but the Social Democrats face a political double game: either highlight Andersson as a strong leader of the opposition if she continues in the leadership of the party or start a round of consultations with Lööf in case the liberals finally discard the option of supporting the moderates even having a presence in the government if the SD nationalists, the winners of the right, have a significant level of power in this new legislature.

historical disagreements

In 1979, the Liberals came to power. Thanks also to coalition governments against the party that won the votes, the Social Democrats, but liberals and moderates ended up breaking their government agreement. In other words, historically there has been a very convulsive relationship between its leaders, with many programmatic and ideological disagreements.

They also separate liberals and moderates in relation to public services, with the proposal for constitutional protection by liberals and the rejection by moderates. In this campaign, the liberals have defended a change of government by closing symbolic agreements with the moderates before the elections, but it is difficult for the SD nationalists, the second with more electoral support, to fit in. The Liberals refuse to give them any space of power.

For now, the SD nationalists appear cautious before the media, but, being the winning force of the right and having overcome many misgivings from the conservative parties of the Alliance bloc, they are in a position of moral strength to be able to be within the next government or, from outside, to preside over the Swedish parliament.

Some and others make their proposals, their articulation of a common program, their design of cadres of the State apparatus and, in short, all are pending the movements that can be made from SD for these new positions. They are the second most voted and the first from the right: they are the ones who can demand the most.

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