SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

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]

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

NOBEL PRIZE

Nobel laureate Ernaux warns of ‘ideology of withdrawal’ in Stockholm lecture

Nobel Literature Prize laureate Annie Ernaux warned Wednesday of a dangerous ideology spreading in Europe under the shadow of the war in Ukraine aimed at excluding society's weakest and limiting women's reproductive rights.

Nobel laureate Ernaux warns of 'ideology of withdrawal' in Stockholm lecture

“In Europe, an ideology of withdrawal and closure is on the rise, still concealed by the violence of an imperialist war waged by the dictator at the head of Russia,” Ernaux said in her Nobel lecture in Stockholm ahead of Saturday’s gala prize ceremony.

Ernaux said it was “steadily gaining ground in hitherto democratic countries.”

“Founded on the exclusion of foreigners and immigrants, the abandonment of the economically weak, the surveillance of women’s bodies, this ideology requires a duty of extreme vigilance, for me and all those for whom the value of a human being is always and everywhere the same”, the 82-year-old said.

A feminist icon, Ernaux was awarded this year’s Nobel in October for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”, the jury said.

Her writing is heavily drawn from her personal experiences of class and gender, often casting a critical eye on social structures.

In her lecture, she also touched on the protests in Iran that erupted in mid-September following the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police.

Ernaux said she took to writing her personal experiences because “a book can contribute to change” and “enable beings to reimagine themselves”.

“We see it today in the revolt of women who have found the words to disrupt male power and who have risen up, as in Iran, against its most archaic form”.

She noted that growing up as part of the post-war generation, “writers and intellectuals positioned themselves in relation to French politics and became involved in social struggles as a matter of course”.

“In today’s world, where the multiplicity of information sources and the speed at which images flash past condition a form of indifference, to focus on one’s art is a temptation.”

She said she hoped that her Nobel Prize was “a sign of hope for all female writers”, who “have not yet gained legitimacy as producers of written works”.

SHOW COMMENTS