Sweden is a high-performing democracy and a constitutional monarchy. With respect to its politics, Sweden has typically been characterized by its consensual political culture, politically active electorate, and its commitment to universal welfare, equal standards and redistribution of wealth. Recently, however, some suggest that this era of the tolerant, multi-cultural welfare state has ended. Sweden’s bid to join NATO in response to the Russian war in Ukraine also signals a shift away from its historical position of neutrality. Sweden’s mixed, competitive economy features sectors such as the automotive, forestry, and telecommunications industries. Over the past five years, Global State of Democracy Indices reveal limited movement across all indicators, and Sweden continues to exhibit high performance across all attributes.
Swedish politics has been undergoing transformation in two respects. Firstly, while its political system has historically been marked by the same five political parties in Parliament, that number has increased to eight since the 2010 elections. The rise of the populist far-right has been particularly transformative in this regard, and more stringent limits on immigration along with rhetoric questioning what is and is not “Swedish” identity has tapped into political debate around Sweden’s acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers. Secondly, while Swedish politics have traditionally been comparatively one-dimensionally dominated by the classic socioeconomic left-right dimension, national political competition has come to be structured along new political cleavages over time - such as in relation to the environment and immigration, as reflected in the repositioning of mainstream parties. These transformations have paved the road for a more turbulent form of politics as it has become harder to form strong coalition governments. New political actors and forms of representation have become increasingly engaged in traditionally party-centered processes – such as civil society actors and policy professionals. This has been evident in some of the key issues that have recently defined the political landscape: the rise of organized violent crime, migration and integration policies, and the welfare and health care system. There has also been some conflict between state interests and indigenous rights – with the state, for example, controversially granting mining rights on Sámi territory.
It is important to watch three key issues. The first area to watch connects to the challenges facing the decentralized nature of the country’s political framework. Municipal politics, in charge of implementing key welfare dimensions such as (but not limited to) healthcare, are increasingly challenged by issues such as (socially representative) recruitment, an ageing population, and the effects of urbanization - both in terms of the increased demand for welfare services in rapidly growing urban areas, and issues of financing and distance to public services in shrinking rural areas. These issues could impact Basic Welfare and Social Group Equality. A second area to watch is higher crime rates and rising social group inequality. Such developments may impact the country’s performance on Civil Liberties. Relatedly, also in connection to Civil Liberties, a third area to watch connects to integration policies – with refugees often struggling to access employment opportunities.
January 2023 | Far-right politician burns Quran
Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, burned a copy of the Quran at a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Paludan is a citizen of both Sweden and Denmark. The Swedish Security Service has warned that Sweden may be vulnerable to increased security threats in response to the Quran burning. Paludan had earlier organized Quran-burning provocations in 2022, sparking riots, as well as protests by the Swedish Muslim community.
November 2022 | Controversial espionage law passed in parliament
A new espionage law, which creates offences of “foreign espionage,” “aggravated foreign espionage” and “disclosing secret information in international cooperation,” has passed with a large majority in Sweden’s Parliament. The law will require changes in Sweden’s press and freedom of expression legislation. Disclosing secret information in specific situations related to Sweden’s international cooperation that could harm the country’s relationship with international organizations or other countries, could be a punishable crime. Jessica Wetterling, a Left Party Member of Parliament, argued that the new law will lead to uncertainty, self-censorship and will impact whistleblowing.
October 2022 | Sweden parliament elects new PM
Following the results of the 2022 parliamentary election, Sweden’s parliament has elected Moderate Party’s Ulf Kristersson as Prime Minister. Although Kristersson’s party came in as the third largest vote winner in the election, his government – consisting of three centre-right coalition members – was formed with the agreement and support of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right anti-immigration party that came second in the election. The right-wing block will have 176 seats in Parliament, as opposed to the 173 seats of the left-wing.
September 2022 | Right wing block secures more seats in Swedish parliamentary election
Although the Social Democrats won the largest share of votes (30.3 per cent) in the Swedish parliamentary election of 11 September, the party and its allies did not secure enough votes to form a government, opening the door to a right-wing coalition government. The Sweden Democrats, considered a far-right party, went from a 5.7 per cent vote share in 2010 to 20.5 per cent vote share in 2022, becoming the second largest party in Sweden. This has moved the centre-right Moderates from the second to the third largest party in Sweden, as they received 19.1 per cent of the votes. As a result, the right-wing block will have 176 seats in parliament, as opposed to the 173 seats of the left-wing block. This has been considered a victory of the far-right movement in Sweden, as the Sweden Democrats have been regarded a populist and conservative party that mainly promotes a far-right anti-immigrant rhetoric. The voter turnout was 84.2 per cent.