Swedish word of the day: talmansrunda

Swedish word of the day: talmansrunda
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
The word 'talmansrunda' is crucial vocabulary if you want to have any hope of understanding the ongoing political crisis in Sweden.

Let’s break the word down. Talman means ‘speaker of parliament’ and is itself a compound word from the verb att tala (to speak) and the noun man (man).

There have been women speakers in Sweden’s political history, the first of them in 1991, but women in the role are still referred to as the talman (Fru Talman or ‘Ms Speaker’ in direct address, and en kvinnlig talman or ‘a woman speaker’ if it’s necessary to emphasize the speaker’s gender).

Then there’s the noun runda, which means ’round’ or ‘turn’. So far, so simple. But to explain what the word means, we need some context on the current political situation.

Currently the parliamentary speaker is Andreas Norlén, who has held the role since September 2018, and one of his main responsibilities is formally proposing a prime ministerial candidate. After elections with a straightforward ‘winner’, this is fairly easy: the job would almost always go to the leader of the largest bloc or party.

That wasn’t the case after 2018, with just one seat separating the two biggest blocs. As a result, Norlén had a key role to play in the ensuing negotiations, and that’s where the talmansrundor come into play. A talmansrunda is the stage of the political process when the speaker holds one-on-one talks with the different party leaders in order to work out the best way forward in forming a government.

Talks on forming Sweden's new government to continue next week
Ulf Kristersson partakes in a talmansrunda. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Previously parliament had always accepted the first prime ministerial candidate proposed, but after the 2018 election it took several ’rounds’ of talks before a government backed by a majority could take power. Even so, the result was a historically weak government, which needed backing from some of its former opposition parties, requiring some significant sacrifices on policy proposals in exchange for this support.

This increasingly fractured political landscape brings us to June 2021. After a vote of no confidence that united both the left and the right-wing against the government, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven resigned, triggering a new talmansrunda. It’s rare to see these talks outside an election, and Löfven is the first sitting PM to be toppled by a no-confidence motion, but the parliamentary speaker has promised that the talks will go more quickly this time around.

If these talks are not successful, Sweden will face snap elections for the first time in seven decades. 

Examples

Talmannen kommer hålla en ny talmansrunda med partiledarna per telefon

The speaker will hold a new round of talks with the party leaders on the telephone

Talmannen har fixat fika till alla partiledarna under dagens talmansrundor

The speaker prepared fika for all the party leaders during the day’s talks

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