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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

The ultimate guide to the 2022 Swedish election

What happens on the day, who can vote, and what might a potential government look like after this too-close-to-call election?

The ultimate guide to the 2022 Swedish election
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson writes autographs after a campaign speech in Botkyrka. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

How does the Swedish election work?

Sweden holds three elections on the same day: for parliament (riksdagen), for the 20 regional councils (regioner, formerly known as landsting) and for the 290 municipal councils (kommuner). 

Swedes go to the polls every four years, and the election is always held on the second Sunday of September. This year, that means Election Day falls on September 11th, this coming Sunday.

Who can vote in the Swedish election?

Swedish citizens over the age of 18 may vote in the national elections, and EU citizens plus Icelanders and Norwegians may vote in the regional and municipal elections if they’re in the Swedish population register. Citizens of other countries also get to vote in these two elections if they’ve been in the population register for at least three consecutive years before the vote.

How to vote in the Swedish election

In the weeks leading up to the election, voting cards are sent out to the registered addresses of all eligible voters from the Election Authority (Valmyndigheten). This letter includes information about the location and opening times of your nearest polling station on Election Day. These are usually schools or libraries. It’s also possible to cast your vote in advance (read more HERE).

If you have a good reason (including illness or disability) you can vote by proxy instead, in which case someone else will cast your vote on your behalf.

This article helps explain how to decipher your voting card.

You can vote without your voting card, but you must bring your ID. If you don’t have one, another person with a valid ID can vouch for you. An expired ID can sometimes be accepted, but it is in the end up to the polling station officers to decide whether or not to accept your ID.

At the polling station, there are different ballot papers for each of the three elections: yellow for the parliamentary elections, blue for the regional councils and white for the municipal councils.

There are also different kinds of ballot papers, allowing you to vote either for a particular party (without identifying a specific candidate), to choose from a list of candidates as well as parties, or to vote using a blank ballot paper. Usually only the main parties have printed ballot papers at the polling stations, so on blank ballot papers, you can write down any party and candidate.

You collect the ballots behind a screen so that no one can see which party you plan to vote for. You then get three envelopes from an election officer, and go to a separate screen, behind which you place your ballots in their envelopes. Finally, you hand your vote to an election officer in the room who will put them in a designated box and tick your name off the list. Remember that voting is done by secret ballot, so you do not need to tell anyone who you voted for if you don’t want to.

What do I need to know about Sweden’s political parties?

We’ve got several handy guides on The Local. Here are some of them:

Click HERE for a look at the party leaders and what their parties stand for. 

Click HERE for links to all the Swedish parties’ election manifestos.

We’ve also looked into how the election pledges made in the manifestos of Sweden’s two largest parties (the centre-left Social Democrats and the conservative Moderates) would affect the lives of foreigners in Sweden. Click their party names to get to those two articles on The Local. 

HERE’S another roundup of how the Swedish parties’ election pledges could affect foreigners.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson holds a press conference in Kristianstad. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

How does the next government get picked?

Sweden uses a form of proportional representation called the modified Sainte-Laguë method (jämkade uddatalsmetoden) to allocate seats.

In short: the parties’ total number of votes per constituency are divided by 1.2 in the first round of counting and the first seat gets allocated to whichever party has the highest quotient. In the next round they’re divided by 3, then 5, then 7 and so on. Only parties that have won more than four percent of the vote nationwide (or at least 12 percent of the vote in a specific constituency, although this is unlikely to happen) get counted.

They keep going like this until 310 so-called fixed seats have been allocated. Thirty-nine levelling seats remain and are then allocated to ensure that the parties are proportionally represented.

Once we know how many seats the parties get in parliament, the work to form the next government begins. The incumbent government doesn’t automatically get ousted, so first the prime minister either resigns or says that they want to remain in power – then, parliament votes on whether or not to accept the prime minister’s government. If more than half of the MPs vote no, the prime minister and government must resign, otherwise things remain as they are.

When the prime minister resigns, the speaker of parliament will initiate talks with the party leaders to figure out who is best positioned to form a new government. Sweden usually has a minority government (sometimes made up of a coalition of several parties, sometimes only one party) that enjoys the support of enough other parties in parliament to make up a majority. 

For example, Magdalena Andersson is currently in charge of a Social Democrat government which only has 100 out of 349 seats in parliament, but with the support of the Greens and to some extent the Centre, Left, and one left-leaning independent MP who tends to side with the government, she has a slim majority in parliament. Yes, it’s been an interesting four years.

Then, parliament votes on the speaker’s proposal. If yes, Sweden has a new government. If no, the speaker resumes talks with the parties. This process took 129 days after the 2018 election, a record for Sweden (the previous record was 25 days after the 1979 election) – with polls too close to call less than a week before the election, a repeat of that scenario is not at all unlikely.

What might Sweden’s next government actually look like?

The short and probably most accurate answer is: WHO KNOWS?! 

The medium-length answer is that the left and the right bloc are as we just said incredibly close in the polls. A left-wing government would likely be headed by the Social Democrats, who would likely seek support from the Greens, the Centre and the Left. Easier said than done. The Centre and Left are far apart on issues such as the budget – both are likely to want to be in government if the other party is, but neither will want to be in government together. It’s a conundrum!

A right-wing government might be headed by the conservative Moderates, who are currently the largest opposition party, probably in a government coalition with the Christian Democrats, possibly the Liberals, and with the support of the Sweden Democrats in parliament. But there’s an X factor: the Sweden Democrats have been polling higher than the Moderates in some recent polls. If they become the biggest opposition party, will they accept staying on the sidelines?

A grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates is possible, but unlikely. They are each other’s arch rivals, and would only join forces when all other options have been exhausted.

Finally, for the long answer, here’s The Local’s interview with a political scientist.

What happens on election day and when do we get a result?

8am: Polls open (for your polling station’s exact opening times, consult your voting card).

8pm: Polls close.

8pm-ish: The first exit polls are usually released by Swedish television broadcasters around this time. It’s a good idea to take these with a pinch of salt, but since nothing else is going to happen for the next few hours, newspapers will jump at the chance to discuss them nevertheless.

11pm-ish: By this time, enough votes have been counted that we usually have a good idea of where the parties stand. But keep in mind that not only is this a very close election, but also, there are a lot of votes to count! Almost 7.8 million people are eligible to vote in the 2022 parliamentary election (around 270,000 more than in the 2018 election) according to the Election Authority and more than 8.1 million people in the regional and municipal elections. Sweden has a high voter turnout, with 87.18 percent of the eligible population voting in the 2018 election.

Midnight-ish: As the evening draws to a close, the party leaders will address crowds at their respective election night parties, and you can probably expect that the opposition parties will call on the prime minister to resign. The incumbent prime minister is usually the last one to take the stage, so try to stay awake until Magdalena Andersson announces her plans for the future.

One thing you need to remember is that although everyone will act as if we have a result at this point, it is in fact just a preliminary result as not all votes have yet been counted. Votes from Swedish citizens abroad and early voting ballots that didn’t make it to the polling stations in time for Election Day get counted on the Wednesday after the election, that is September 14th. 

Election officers take around a week to complete the final count of the votes after they’ve been counted and recounted, and the final allocation of seats in parliament may take up to two weeks. 

If Magdalena Andersson doesn’t resign, September 27th is the earliest day that parliament can hold their vote on forcing her resignation. In the meantime she leads a caretaker government.

Sweden Democrat ballot papers and a picture of party leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Are there any other articles you recommend I read before the election?

Yes! And please feel free to share them with friends. To read, click the links below.

“If the right bloc wins next weekend’s Swedish election, how much influence could the Sweden Democrats demand?” Journalism lecturer David Crouch asks what a government for the first time backed by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would actually look like. 

Chinatown, Somalitown or Little Italy? Stockholm University associate professor Andrea Voyer lists six things Swedish politicians get wrong about immigration, integration and segregation.

As we mentioned above, you may be able to vote in Sweden’s regional and municipal elections even if you’re not a citizen. Here’s who currently controls these areas, and what power they have.

“I’ve found the focus on foreigners very confronting. Foreigners seem to be presented as the source of all Sweden’s problems. I worry this is a message that will impact my children.” Last month, we asked The Local’s readers how they feel about the election.

What have the Sweden Democrats proved in four years of municipal rule? On a visit to Sölvesborg, The Local’s Richard Orange found surprisingly few angry or dissatisfied citizens.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats enacted the first stage of their work permit reform plan on June 1st, and have announced further plans to tighten up the work permit system. But where do Sweden’s other political parties stand on labour migration? The Local explains in this article.

Since dropping its objection to working with the once-pariah Sweden Democrats in late 2019, the centre-right Moderate Party has changed enormously. The Local asked three experts: is it even the same party which fought the 2018 election?

Why is the climate crisis not a bigger issue? The Local asked journalist and sociologist Dominic Hinde to explain how Sweden views the climate crisis – and how to figure out who to vote for.

We’ve also done interviews with several key political players:

Justice Minister Morgan Johansson: ‘Tough rhetoric on immigration? I don’t think so’

Centre Party deputy leader Martin Ådahl: Sweden has been ruled for four years on ‘essentially the Centre Party’s programme

Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar: ‘Immigrants and Swedes need the same things’

Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch: ‘We’re trying to make a shift in Swedish immigration policy’

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson: ‘The Sweden Democrats are needed in government’ 

Green Party leader Märta Stenevi: ‘We can’t be focused on the environment as a niche issue’

Migration Minister Anders Ygeman: ‘We don’t want people to be just semi-Swedes’

How will The Local cover the election?

We’ll run a live blog on the night, and our team will report straight from the parties’ election night events, chasing interviews with senior party officials and pundits to get you the latest news. 

If you want to get in touch with us, email our editorial team at [email protected]

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CRIME

EXPLAINED: What Sweden’s controversial new espionage law means

Sweden's new law against foreign espionage will alter passages in Sweden's constitutional laws governing freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The Local spoke to Mikael Ruotsi, senior lecturer in constitutional law at Uppsala University, about the new law.

EXPLAINED: What Sweden’s controversial new espionage law means

What was wrong with the previous law?

Sweden’s previous espionage law only covered Sweden’s national security, while the new law expands this to cover information that could harm Sweden’s relations with other countries or international organisations. Ruotsi said that Sweden’s last government, together with the then opposition parties, had felt that Sweden’s current spy law was too narrowly drawn, and also was less extensive than those of many of the country’s international partners.  

“What it aims to do is to encompass situations, for instance, where Swedish Armed Forces are working within UN peacekeeping operations, and classified information is divulged, which might harm the peacekeeping operation or other participating countries’ national interests, but not Swedish national interest,” Ruotsi said.

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Under Sweden’s existing laws, leaking information in this sort of scenario might be considered “divulging classified information”, but that he said is only a relatively minor crime.

Under the new law, it will become a more serious offence, with a maximum prison sentence of eight years for “aggravated foreign espionage” and four years for “foreign espionage”. 

Ruotsi said that the law had been in preparation for six to seven years and had nothing to do with either Sweden joining Nato, or with the decision by the Swedish diplomat Anders Kompass to blow the whistle in 2014 about a report into child sexual abuse carried out by French Peacekeepers in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and July 2014. 

Kompass was then field operations director at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and is now ambassador to Guatemala. 

“We can be fairly sure that this has nothing to do with the Anders Kompass situation,” Ruotsi said “I think it’s more of a reaction to Sweden being more involved at the international level in UN missions and things like that, and that there is increased international involvement with the Swedish Armed Forces.” 

How does the new law change the constitution?

Rather than a single written constitution, Sweden has four constitutional laws. The new law changes two of them: the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression, so that sharing secret information that damages Sweden’s relations with another country is illegal.

In order to criminalise an act of speech – for example, divulging national security secrets – that change in the criminal law needs to be mirrored in a change to the constitutional Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. 

Similarly, in order to criminalise the disclosure of information obtained through espionage, changes need to be made to the constitutional Freedom of the Press Act. 

“They are basically just mirrors of the criminal code, so if you want to make something criminal to say in a newspaper or on TV, then you have to criminalise it both in the criminal act and in those two constitutional media laws,” Ruotsi explains.

Is it concerning that the constitution is being changed?

Ruotsi said that because changing the Swedish constitutional laws requires a vote either side of an election, the four constitutional laws tend to undergo significant changes after every general election.

“They have a specific, very detailed nature, and they need to be kept up to date,” he said of Sweden’s constitutional law. “So there are changes every four years, but it’s not very common that you introduce a new crime or a new criminal sanction.”

Are there any good reasons to be worried about the new law?

One concern around the changes to the constitution is that they may make sources less willing to speak to the media or to pass information about critical matters on to journalists.

While the preparatory work for the new law does include provisions for the sharing of information that is of value to the public, for sources with sensitive information about Sweden’s dealings with other countries, the fear of what Ruotsi calls “criminal sanctions” may compromise their willingness to speak with journalists and with the press.

The law includes what Ruotsi calls a “public interest override” that states that publications or leaks that are “defensible” should not be prosecuted under the law. 

Even though he concedes this is “phrased a lot more vaguely” in the Swedish law than it could be, he argues that the preparatory work for the law makes it clear that this is intended to protect whistleblowers and investigative journalism.

“If you look at the preparatory works, it’s quite clear that they mean to exclude from criminal responsibility things that are of value to the public and in particular the media,” he said. 

“It’s somewhat unclear how this new law will be interpreted, but it’s obvious that the purpose of the law is not to criminalise the Anders Kompass situation, it’s to make sure that if we have Swedish military personnel or other civil servants working abroad on international missions and they turn out to be spies, that we can sanction them. That’s the main idea.”

By Shandana Mufti and Richard Orange

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