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2018 Swedish general election

General elections were held in Sweden on Sunday 9 September 2018 to elect the 349 members of the Riksdag. Regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day. The incumbent minority government, consisting of the Social Democrats and the Greens and supported by the Left Party, winning 144 seats, one seat more than the four-party Alliance coalition, with the Sweden Democrats winning the remaining 62 seats. The Social Democrats' vote share fell to 28.3 percent, its lowest level of support since 1911, although the main opposition, the Moderates, lost even more support. The Sweden Democrats made gains, though less than anticipated.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The voter turnout of 87.18%[7] was the highest in 33 years and 1.38 percentage points higher than the 2014 elections.

2018 Swedish general election

← 2014 9 September 2018 Next →

All 349 seats in the Riksdag
175 seats are needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout6,532,063 (87.1%)
Increase 1.3pp
  First party Second party Third party
  (Stefan Löfven) Viaje del presidente del Gobierno a Suecia.jpg EPP Summit, 22 March 2018 (40954072911) (cropped).jpg Almedalen 7 July 2016 68 (27907007150) (cropped).jpg
Leader Stefan Löfven Ulf Kristersson Jimmie Åkesson
Party Social Democratic Moderate Sweden Democrats
Alliance Löfven Cabinet
(Red-Greens)
The Alliance
Leader since 27 January 2012 1 October 2017 7 May 2005
Leader's seat Västernorrland County Södermanland County Jönköping County
Last election 113 seats, 31.0% 84 seats, 23.3% 49 seats, 12.9%
Seats before 113 84 49
Seats won 100 70 62
Seat change Decrease 13 Decrease 14 Increase 13
Popular vote 1,830,386 1,284,698 1,135,627
Percentage 28.3% 19.8% 17.5%
Swing Decrease 2.7pp Decrease 3.5pp Increase 4.6pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  2018-07-03 Presskonferens Blå miljard (42831783655) (cropped).jpg Jonas Sjöstedt (34964205473) (cropped).jpg Ebba Busch Thor Almedalen 2018 (43242646171) (cropped).jpg
Leader Annie Lööf Jonas Sjöstedt Ebba Busch Thor
Party Centre Left Christian Democrats
Alliance The Alliance Collaboration with Löfven Cabinet The Alliance
Leader since 23 September 2011 6 January 2012 25 April 2015
Leader's seat Jönköping County Västerbotten
Last election 22 seats, 6.1% 21 seats, 5.7% 16 seats, 4.6%
Seats before 22 21 16
Seats won 31 28 22
Seat change Increase 9 Increase 7 Increase 6
Popular vote 557,500 518,454 409,478
Percentage 8.6% 8.0% 6.3%
Swing Increase 2.5pp Increase 2.3pp Increase 1.7pp

  Seventh party Eighth party
  Jan Björklund Almedalen 2018 (42277380475) (cropped).jpg Isabella Lövin signing climate law referral (cropped).jpg
Almedalen 2017 (36197325382) (cropped).jpg
Leader Jan Björklund Isabella Lövin
Gustav Fridolin
Party Liberals Green
Alliance The Alliance Löfven Cabinet
(Red-Greens)
Leader since 7 September 2007 13 May 2016
21 May 2011
Leader's seat Stockholm County
Last election 19 seats, 5.4% 25 seats, 6.9%
Seats before 19 25
Seats won 20 16
Seat change Increase 1 Decrease 9
Popular vote 355,546 285,899
Percentage 5.5% 4.4%
Swing Increase 0.1pp Decrease 2.5pp

Swedish General Election 2018.svg
Largest party by district (left) and municipality (right) Red – Social Democratic, Blue – Moderate, Yellow – Sweden Democrats

Prime Minister before election

Stefan Löfven
Social Democratic

Elected Prime Minister

Stefan Löfven
Social Democratic

Following the elections, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost a vote of no-confidence on 25 September, forcing a parliamentary vote on a new government. In the meantime, his government remained in power as a caretaker government.[8] Speaker Andreas Norlén nominated Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson to form a government on 9 November. However, Kristersson lost a vote to confirm him in office by a margin of 195–154. He was supported by his own Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats, but the Liberals and the Centre Party, the other parties in the centre-right Alliance, were not willing to form a government reliant on the Sweden Democrats.[9][10] On 15 November, Norlén invited Centre Party leader Annie Lööf to try to form a government, but she was unable to do so. Norlén then nominated Löfven, but he lost a confirmation vote on 14 December.[11]

Hours after the failed vote to confirm Löfven, Norlén announced that he would be meeting with representatives of the Election Authority regarding a potential extraordinary election. The Speaker also stated that he would be engaging in talks with the parties during the weekend and that he would present the next phase of the government formation process by the following week.[12] Löfven was finally re-elected as Prime Minister on 18 January 2019 after the Social Democrats struck an agreement with the Greens, the Liberals, and the Centre Party;[13] and after the Left Party agreed to abstain from voting against Löfven.[13]

ContextEdit

2014 budget crisisEdit

Just two months after having formed a minority government, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced on the afternoon of 3 December 2014 that he intended to make the formal arrangements for calling an extraordinary election on 29 December 2014 – the earliest date permitted by the constitution.

The election seemed to be necessary after Löfven's Social Democrat-led government lost a vote on the budget by 182 to 153, owing to the Sweden Democrats voting with the opposition, leading to a cabinet crisis.[14] It would have been the first early election since 1958.[15]

However, an agreement between the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Moderates, the Centrists, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats was signed on 26 December 2014, outlining a series of conditions in order to ensure political stability until at least 2022.[16] The agreement included two main provisions:

  • The candidate for Prime Minister who gathered the most support would be elected. This would apply to both incumbent and new candidates for PM.
  • A government in minority would be allowed to have its budget passed, by the abstention of opposition parties who had signed the agreement.

After negotiations between the Government and the Alliance for Sweden concluded, the snap election was called off on 27 December 2014. On 9 October 2015, following the Christian Democrats' departure from the agreement, the December 2014 agreement was dissolved. However, the Moderates, the Centrists and the Liberals allowed the Social Democrats minority government to continue to govern.

Campaign issuesEdit

In May 2018, the issues that the Swedish voters considered most important were immigration, healthcare and integration.[17] In the days leading up to the election, the most important issue was the environment, followed by immigration and health care.[18] With the polls showing that the Sweden Democrats could be kingmakers there was speculation over possible government coalitions.[19]

Concerns about foreign influence in the election were raised by the Swedish Security Service and others, leading to various countermeasures.[20][21]

The summer of 2018 saw several violent incidents occur, including the arson of over 100 cars on 15 August, which may have caused 10% of Swedes to state that "law and order" is the key issue in the upcoming election.[22][additional citation(s) needed] While Sweden has faced sporadic gang violence in recent years at the end of summer break for students, violence in Gothenburg, Falkenberg and Trollhättan was said to be on a larger scale.[23] Prime Minister Löfven referred to the August violence as if it was organized "almost like a military operation".[23] In the following days, Twitter accounts connected to Russia tweeted about the fires, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy intending to influence English-language readers.[24] According to the Oxford Internet Institute, eight of the top 10 "junk news" sources during the election campaign were Swedish, and "Russian sources comprised less than 1% of the total number of URLs shared in the data sample."[25] Non-Swedish media frequently emphasize the events in order to advance a narrative of a society in decay, along with some negative but restricted reporting around immigration, to describe great gains by the Sweden Democrats; this has been criticized as a "false narrative" and "misreporting" by domestic media.[26][27][28]

Contesting partiesEdit

Major partiesEdit

The Social Democratic Party (S; Socialdemokraterna) was the largest political party in the Swedish Riksdag, with 113 of the 349 seats. It was the major component of the incumbent Löfven Cabinet, in which it worked with the Green Party. Its leader Stefan Löfven had been Prime Minister of Sweden since 3 October 2014, and sought a mandate to continue his Löfven Cabinet.

The Moderate Party (M; Moderaterna) was the second-largest party in the Riksdag with 84 seats. It was the largest governing party under Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt from 2006 to 2014. The party was involved alongside three other parties in the Alliance; all four sought to return to power together. Reinfeldt resigned as party leader after eight years as Prime Minister, and was succeeded as leader by Anna Kinberg Batra on 10 January 2015. Kinberg Batra's decision as the de facto leader to enter the budgetary procedure agreement with the left-of-centre cabinet saw sharp disgruntlement from some party districts. The Alliance had more MPs than the government parties, but still found itself in opposition. Owing to her low opinion polling numbers, Kinberg Batra faced internal pressure from multiple party districts and the Moderate Youth League to resign. She announced her resignation in a morning press conference on 25 August 2017.[29] Former prime minister and Moderate Party leader Carl Bildt was suggested as a replacement after Kinberg Batra resigned; however, despite some party districts supporting his candidacy, he declined the offer.[30] Ultimately, Ulf Kristersson was elected to succeed Kinberg Batra as party leader, during an extra Moderate party conference on 1 October 2017.[31]

The Sweden Democrats (SD; Sverigedemokraterna) was the third-largest party in the Riksdag with 49 seats. In the 2014 general election the party increased its number of seats by 29, becoming the third-largest party. Its leader was Jimmie Åkesson, who was the longest-serving party leader. The other Riksdag parties had repeatedly stated that they would not cooperate with the Sweden Democrats in a future government. An extra general election was called after the Sweden Democrats gave its support to the oppositional Alliance budget (see section '2014 budget crisis'). After the proposed extra election was cancelled, the party advertised itself as the 'only opposition party' and in the following months it saw a sharp rise in support (see section 'Opinion polls').

The Green Party (MP; Miljöpartiet) was the fourth-largest party in the Riksdag with 25 seats. The Green Party was the minor component of the Löfven Cabinet, alongside the Social Democrats. It was the only Swedish party to have two spokespersons, Gustav Fridolin (since 2011), who served as Minister for Education, and Isabella Lövin (since 2016), who served as Minister for International Development Cooperation. This was the first time in Swedish history that the Green Party had its governmental record tested at an election.

The Centre Party (C; Centerpartiet) was the fifth-largest party in the Riksdag with 22 seats. It was a part of the Reinfeldt Cabinet from 2006 to 2014, and was involved in the Alliance. The Centre Party had been led by Annie Lööf since 2011. It was subject to public attempts by Löfven to become a cooperation party, but the party traditionally leans towards the Moderate policy positions and stayed within the Alliance after the 2014 election.

The Left Party (V; Vänsterpartiet) was the sixth-largest party in the Riksdag with 21 seats. Its leader was Jonas Sjöstedt. He had said that the party sought to participate in a future Red-Green coalition government. The Left Party did not support the Löfven Cabinet because it was not asked to participate in that cabinet following the 2014 general election, but supported its budget that was voted down on 3 December 2014. Following the budgetary agreement, the Left Party was what tips the left-of-centre minority into a larger minority than the Alliance.

The Liberals (L; Liberalerna) was the seventh-largest party in the Riksdag with 19 seats. It was a part of the Reinfeldt Cabinet from 2006 to 2014, and was involved in the Alliance. The Liberals had been led by Jan Björklund since 2007; his leadership was being increasingly criticized within the party. Opinion polls in the year after the 2014 election suggested that the party was struggling to recapture its previous level of support. Having been in charge of the school system and integration of migrants, it came under a lot of criticism owing to falling school results and increased segregation in immigrant-dominated suburbs.

The Christian Democrats (KD; Kristdemokraterna) had been led by Ebba Busch Thor since 2015. It was involved in the Alliance. Despite polling below the 4% electoral threshold for most of the time between the elections, the party saw a boost in support in the time period immediately prior to the election, guaranteeing its presence in the Riksdag (which was seen as essential in order for the Alliance to be able to form a government.). The party held on by a few tens of thousands of votes last time.

Minor partiesEdit

Parties with less than 4% of the vote do not get any seats in the Riksdag.

Feminist Initiative (FI; Feministiskt Initiativ), led by former Left Party leader Gudrun Schyman, was the country's ninth-largest party, and was represented in the European Parliament following the 2014 European election. The party received 0.4% of the vote in the election, compared to 3% in the previous election 2014.

The Pirate Party (PP; Piratpartiet) won representation in the 2009–14 European Parliament, but its subsequent runs for office had been less successful. It has been mentioned in some polls as the tenth-largest party, but appeared to be far from having a chance to break the threshold at a domestic level.

The Alternative for Sweden (Alternativ för Sverige) was a party with no representation in the Riksdag. It was formed from members expelled from the Sweden Democrats in 2015, and was led by Gustav Kasselstrand. The party received 0.3% of the vote, and thus failed to enter the Riksdag in this election.

Electoral systemEdit

The Swedish Riksdag is made up of 349 MPs, and all are elected through open list proportional representation on multi-member party lists that are either regional (most major parties) or national (Sweden Democrats). Each of the 29 constituencies has a set number of parliamentarians that is divided through constituency results to ensure regional representation. The other MPs are then elected through a proportional balancing, to ensure that the numbers of elected MPs for the various parties accurately represent the votes of the electorate. The Swedish constitution (Regeringsformen) 1 Ch. 4 § says that the Riksdag is responsible for taxation and making laws, and 1 Ch. 6 § says that the government is held responsible to the Riksdag. This means that Sweden has parliamentarism in a constitutional monarchy—ensuring that the government is responsible to the people's representatives. A minimum of 4% of the national vote is required for a party to enter the Riksdag, alternatively 12% or more within a constituency.

Vote secrecy and party-specific ballotsEdit

Election officials are responsible for party-specific ballot papers being present in the voting places for parties that have obtained more than one percent of the votes in the previous parliamentary election.[32] If there is no access to the wanted party-specific ballot paper, a voter may cast a vote by writing in the party name of choice on a blank ballot paper.[33] The voter generally chooses a party-specific ballot in the open and only then marks the ballot they chose in the voting booth.[34]

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights sent an election expert team of two members to the 2018 general election to examine and assess this system, including in relation to questions of the secrecy of the ballot. The observers are to issue a report eight weeks after the election was held.[34]

The neo-nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement was reported shouting slogans and filming voters in several election rooms.[35]

There were reports of missing party-specific ballots in some voting districts during the early voting phase.[36][37] On the election day, the Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Television reported that the ballots of the Sweden Democrats were missing for 2 hours in one Gothenburg district.[38]

PartiesEdit

The table below lists parties' 2014 representation in the Riksdag.

Name Ideologies Leader 2014 result
Votes (%) Seats
S Swedish Social Democratic Party
Socialdemokraterna
Social democracy Stefan Löfven 31.0%
113 / 349
M Moderate Party
Moderaterna
Liberal conservatism Ulf Kristersson 23.3%
84 / 349
SD Sweden Democrats
Sverigedemokraterna
Right-wing populism
Jimmie Åkesson 12.9%
49 / 349
MP Green Party
Miljöpartiet
Green politics Isabella Lövin
Gustav Fridolin
6.9%
25 / 349
C Centre Party
Centerpartiet
Liberalism
Agrarianism
Annie Lööf 6.1%
22 / 349
V Left Party
Vänsterpartiet
Socialism Jonas Sjöstedt 5.7%
21 / 349
L Liberals
Liberalerna
Liberalism Jan Björklund 5.4%
19 / 349
KD Christian Democrats
Kristdemokraterna
Christian democracy Ebba Busch Thor 4.6%
16 / 349

Opinion pollsEdit

ResultsEdit

Party Votes % Seats +/−
Social Democratic Party S 1,830,386 28.26 100 −13
Moderate Party M 1,284,698 19.84 70 −14
Sweden Democrats SD 1,135,627 17.53 62 +13
Centre Party C 557,500 8.61 31 +9
Left Party V 518,454 8.00 28 +7
Christian Democrats KD 409,478 6.32 22 +6
Liberals L 355,546 5.49 20 +1
Green Party MP 285,899 4.41 16 −9
Feminist Initiative FI 29,665 0.46 0 0
Alternative for Sweden AfS 20,290 0.31 0 New
Citizens' Coalition MED 13,056 0.20 0 New
Pirate Party PP 7,326 0.11 0 0
Direktdemokraterna DD 5,153 0.08 0 0
Landsbygdspartiet Oberoende LPo 4,962 0.08 0 New
Enhet ENH 4,647 0.07 0 0
Animal Party DjuP 3,648 0.06 0 0
Christian Values Party KrVP 3,202 0.05 0 0
Nordic Resistance Movement NMR 2,106 0.03 0 New
Liberala partiet KLP 1,504 0.01 0 0
Communist Party of Sweden SKP 702 0.01 0 0
Basic Income Party 632 0.01 0 New
Initiative 615 0.01 0 New
Security Party TRP 511 0.01 0 New
Scania Party SKÅ 296 0.00 0 0
Norrlandspartiet 60 0.00 0 New
Libertarian Freedom Party FRP 53 0.00 0 New
European Workers Party EAP 52 0.00 0 0
NY Reform 32 0.00 0 New
Common Sense in Sweden CSIS 21 0.00 0 New
Our Country – Sweden 9 0.00 0 New
Reformist Neutral Party RNP 4 0.00 0 0
People's Home Sweden 2 0.00 0 New
Yellow Party Gup 1 0.00 0 0
Parties not on the ballot 588 0.01 0
Invalid/blank votes 58,546
Total 6,535,271 100 349 0
Registered voters/turnout 7,495,936 87.18
Source: VAL

By allianceEdit

Alliance Votes % Seats +/−
Red-Greens (S+MP+V) 2,634,739 40.68 144 −15
The Alliance (M+C+L+KD) 2,607,222 40.26 143 +2
Sweden Democrats (SD) 1,135,627 17.53 62 +13
Invalid/blank votes 58,546
Total 6,535,271 100 349 0
Registered voters/turnout 7,495,936 87.18
Source: VAL

Voter demographicsEdit

Voter demographics of the Swedish general election 2018, according to the Swedish Television's exit polls.[39]

Gender and age
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Females 31 19 12 38 100
Males 25 21 23 31 100
18–21 years old 22 24 12 58 100
22–30 years old 25 22 13 40 100
31–64 years old 27 20 19 34 100
65 years old and older 35 17 17 31 100
Source: [40]
Employment
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Gainfully employed 25 21 17 47 100
Unemployed 31 17 24 38 100
Permanently outside the labor market 36 7 30 27 100
Students 26 21 8 45 100
Source: [41]
Occupation
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Blue-collar workers 34 14 24 28 100
White-collar workers and managers 27 22 12 28 100
Farmers 22 14 16 38 100
Business owners and self-employed 13 30 24 33 100
Source: [41]
Union membership
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Blue-collar unions (LO) 41 11 24 24 100
White-collar unions (TCO) 32 18 13 37 100
Professional unions (SACO) 25 17 9 48 100
Source: [41]
Education
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Less than nine years of school 37 11 35 17 100
Compulsory comprehensive school 37 14 27 22 100
Secondary school 30 20 23 27 100
Tertiary non-academic education 28 19 24 29 100
College education 26 22 9 43 100
Post-graduate education 21 15 10 54 100
Source: [42]
Public/Private sector employment
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Public sector 34 15 15 36 100
Private sector 23 24 19 34 100
Source: [43]
Foreign born
Cohort
Percentage of cohort voting for
Social Democrats Moderates Sweden Democrats Other parties Total
Raised in Sweden 28 20 17 45 100
Raised in Scandinavia outside of Sweden 26 11 36 27 100
Raised in Europe outside of Scandinavia 35 17 22 26 100
Raised outside of Europe 47 14 9 30 100
Source: [44]

AnalysisEdit

 
The disproportionality of the election was 1.8 according to the Gallagher index.

Numerous media sources noted the gains made by the Sweden Democrats,[45][46][47][48][49] tying those gains to the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties across Europe.[50][51] However, it was noted that the party did not grow as much as some polls had predicted.[52][53][54][55] While the Social Democrats performed better than expected, the party still saw its worst result since 1908.[51][56][57] According to The Guardian, the growth of the SD "upended perhaps western Europe's most stable political order,"[58] and other commentators made similar statements.[59] According to Emily Schultheis of Foreign Policy, the SD won an ideological victory, as it "effectively set the terms for debate" and forced its rivals to adopt immigration policies similar to its own,[6] and other reporters made similar observations.[60][61]

The election did not result in a clear victory for any political faction.[49][62][63][64]

The Sweden Democrats performed particularly well in Skåne County, having the highest number of voters in 21 out of the county's 33 municipalities.[65] SVT reported that at least 22 seats in 17 city councils would be empty as the Sweden Democrats won more seats than the number of candidates it had.[66][67] The party received its first mayor, in Hörby Municipality.[68] Despite the Social Democrats' worst result nationwide in decades, they overtook the Moderates in the latter's traditional stronghold of Stockholm city. Additionally, the Social Democrats and the Left Party saw an increase in the number of votes cast in that constituency while the Moderates lost votes; consequently, the Red-Green bloc also overtook the Alliance in the constituency.[69]

Government formationEdit

The election resulted in a hung parliament, with the red-green and centre-right coalitions each holding about 40% of the seats, and the Sweden Democrats holding the remainder.[62][63][70]

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost the motion of no confidence against him and his cabinet on 25 September 2018, with 142 members of parliament voting to retain Löfven's cabinet and 204 voting against.[8][71][72] This triggered a constitutional procedure wherein the Riksdag is given four chances to vote on a new Prime Minister. If the Riksdag failed all four attempts to elect a new Prime Minister, a snap election would be mandatory.

Party negotiations for forming a new government commenced on 27 September,[73] but the deadlock remained as neither Löfven nor Kristersson could construct a stable coalition. On 14 November, Kristersson was formally nominated as PM, but lost the confidence vote when the Center and Liberal parties refused to back him, as they were unwilling to work in a government that relied on the Sweden Democrats.[74][75] The vote was historical, as it was the first time a candidate for Prime Minister was rejected by the Riksdag since the abolition of the bicameral legislature in 1971.[10]

After continued, unfruitful negotiations, Speaker Norlén nominated Löfven to be re-appointed Prime Minister on 12 December. Though the Center and Liberal parties were initially willing to work with him in securing a coalition, talks broke down days before the vote due to disagreements with the budget, and thus Löfven too lost his confidence vote two days later.[11] On the same day that Löfven was nominated, the Riksdag rejected the caretaker government's provisional budget, and instead passed a competing budget designed by the Moderates and Christian Democrats.[76][77]

Norlén stated after the vote that he would restart negotiations between the parties, while at the same time preparing for the possibility of a snap election.[78] Norlén then created a finalized timeline for forming a government, and urged Kristersson and Löfven to find a compromise. Without nominating a new candidate, he set the next vote for a Prime Minister initially for 16 January (but later postponed to 18 January owing to differences between the Social Democrats and the Left Party), and a final vote on 23 January if the first vote would fail. If neither vote had succeeded, a snap election would have been called immediately, scheduled to take place on 21 April.[79]

On 11 January 2019, a deal was struck between the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Centre Party, and the Liberals to allow Löfven to continue governing. However, over the next few days, senior officials of the Left Party expressed concern and were leaning towards voting against the proposed government and instead called on Löfven to continue negotiations with them. On 16 January, Sjöstedt agreed to abstain from voting against Löfven. On 18 January, Löfven was formally reelected with 192 yes votes and abstentions.[80]

ReferencesEdit

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