Sweden’s 2014 election

In Sweden’s general election on 14 September, the bloc of center-left parties headed by the Social Democrats won 43.7% of the vote, with the incumbent center-right parties reduced to a combined 35.3%. The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have around 12%, or roughly a doubling of their support from 2010.

Stefan Löfven, the Social Democrat leader, has ruled out cooperation with the Sweden Democrats, as has the outgoing center-right leadership. That means that the statement I have heard and read in various media that the Sweden Democrats “hold the balance of power” is evidently false. In fact, center-right PM Fredrik Reinfeldt has already resigned.

The Guardian reports:

Löfven hinted instead at deals with the two smaller parties in the country’s rightwing alliance, whose combined 11.5% share would bring them close to a majority. “I want to say that the hand is extended to other democratic parties,” he said. “Our country is too small for conflict.”

I do not know enough about Swedish politics to assess this. Maybe someone can help. The two major blocs are often reported as “alliances”, in the sense of signaling in elections their intent to govern together, given a favorable election result. Normally, I’d expect pre-election alliances to imply also going into opposition as a bloc. This sort of election result can change things, but how readily would parties within an alliance in Sweden break and extend support to (or even enter a cabinet of) a government of the other bloc?

A related question is, to what extent (if at all) do the parties within an alliance cooperate in the elections themselves?

A final note, also from the Guardian:

Reinfeldt’s minority government benefited from the tacit support of the far right, whose MPs voted in favour of an overwhelming majority of their measures. But it has always refused any formal cooperation.

Presumably even such tacit cooperation is less an option for Löfven, and appears in any case to be ruled out by his public statements.

And a final final note: Löfven had not previously been elected to public office; this is quite unusual for prime ministers in parliamentary systems, especially long-established ones. In fact, just 21 of 377 (5.6%) of PMs in parliamentary democracies have no prior experience as an elected national or regional MP, or regional or municipal executive, according to the Samuels and Shugart dataset.*

* Or 24 of 391 (6.1%) have no parliamentary experience. (There are some missing data on some of the other experience variables.) For democracies older than the median parliamentary system in the dataset (18 years), only 6 of 203 (2.96%) PMs lack prior electoral experience.

10 thoughts on “Sweden’s 2014 election

  1. From what I had heard, the left-wing ‘alliance’ had already broken down before this election, and so did not present a joint programme as the governing alliance did.

    Concerning tacit co-operation of the SD (Sweden Democrats) for the outgoing government, My understanding was that it was in fact the Green Party which kept the government in power despite their lack of a majority. Of course, this may have been limited to such cases when SD support was lacking or simply considered too embarrassing. Formally, there has been no co-operation with SD, and a full ‘cordon sanitaire’ was declared by all parties (as in Belgium, unlike in Denmark or the Netherlands). How exactly this was enforced, I do not know. But if the parties are still intent on isolating SD, at least pro forma, then I would be very surprised if some of the smaller parties of the last government will not now lend a hand in the same way the Greens are said to have done – that is to say, they will support it so that it does not fall. Cabinet participation, however, is another, much more doubtful matter.

  2. The left of centre parties are 17 seats short of a majority. This leaves the anti-immigration party crowing that they hold the balance of power. The Centre Party — with agrarian roots, strongly pro-immigration, and attracting urban socially liberal voters — holds 21 seats. It lost only one seat to the anti-immigration party, unlike its competition (the Liberal People’s Party) which lost five. It has a previous history of working with the Social Democrats. If they want to boast that they stymied the anti-immigrants, they need to be part of a stable grand centre-left coalition. Right? But it hasn’t happened yet. Playing hard to get???

  3. Stefan Loefven has said (post-election) that the Left Party will not be part of his government. Sweden has had stable minority governments in the past without official supply and confidence deals with other parties. Could the reason be that a new parliament elected in an early election only serves out the remaining term of the previous parliament? Still, knowing how the Alliance minority government got their budgets passed between 2010 and 2014 (eg. who abstained?) may give some clue on how the Red-Green government will function.

    Somehow I vaguely remember that the Center Party is the most economically liberal (or “right wing”) of the Alliance, though I could not recall the source, or perhaps I mixed up some of the Christian Democratic or Center parties in that area…

    • Interesting, so that statement regarding the Left Party implies it really is not meaningfully an “alliance”, although presumably the Left can be relied upon for support even if there is not, as you note, necessarily a formal agreement.

  4. According to Google Translate, the Donald Duck Party won 3 votes, just behind what Google Translate refers to as ‘Satanic initiatives’. Not sure if that is out of all ballots counted, but an interesting feature of Swedish elections nonetheless.

  5. What appears to have happened is that the Swedish Democrats gained 29 seats, and the Moderates, the main part of the governing center-right coalition, lost 23 seats. The logical response would be to bring the Swedish Democrats into the coalition. This doesn’t seem to be an option, and I can only conclude that at least one of the smaller center-right parties is strongly pro-immigration. If the Swedish Democrats are brought in, the center-right coalition can lose one of its smaller parties.

    If the Social Democrats govern without the Moderates, Swedish Democrats, and Left, they will need the support of all but one of the smaller center right parties. Is a coalition between the Social Democrats and the Moderates on the table, and if not why?

  6. Did Sweden go from negative parliamentarianism towards one where the new Prime Minister now has to have explicit confidence and support? Won’t this make the government stability even more unstable? I don’t see how this government lead by the Social Democrats in coalition with the Greens could survive. This is a pyrrhic victory for the Social Democrats has they didn’t do much better nor did they do much worse than the last election.

    Sweden will have to have extra election to resolve the deadlock. The small center right parties (Center, Liberals, Christian Democrats) that allied with the Moderates did surprisingly well, and only by loosing a few seats. It is doubtful they would want to support and/or let alone support a government with the Social Democrats. Perhaps the only government that can be formed is a grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the Moderates or tacit support of the Social Democrat government by the Moderates. It is odd that Frederik Reinfeldt resigned as Prime Minister as the Center Right has majority support only if he would let the Sweden Democrats support the Center Right government from the outside.

    • I was right that this weak minority coalition government wouldn’t survive for very long. It is amazing that Sweden is going to the polls again with 3 months separating the general from the extra election. Any cases of a general election and then a snap election so soon after that because of gridlock? Any difference between the results and the end of the deadlock?

  7. Having failed to pass a budget, which was blocked by the centre-right coalition and the Sweden Democrats, Lofven has opted to call a snap election for March 22.

  8. Following the cancelling of the planned 2015 election, there has recently been talk of another election later this year. The centre-right pulled out of the pact with the left recently, over Green participation in the government. It’s a bit unclear exactly what this will mean, though.

    This (http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/11/uk-sweden-politics-socialdemocrats-idUKKCN0S512520151011) Reuters story suggests that the Moderates don’t want an election; not an unreasonable position, given that the Sweden Democrats have made significant gains since the left-right alliance. I’m not sure what the impact of this sort of thing will be on the Sweden Democrat vote. On one hand, it may improve the polling for the centre-right, because it may be seen as a protest against the Greens. On the other, though, PM Lofven seems to have brushed aside the centre-right’s protest, and if the centre-right duck an election, it may present to voters as the centre-right being under the thumb of the left.

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