Parliamentary Elections

September 9, 2018

Result: The Red-Greens alliance won 40.68% of the vote (144 seats), the Alliance won 40.26% (143 seats), and the far-right Sweden Democrats won 17.53% (62 seats). No party or alliance won a majority of seats in the Parliament, and Prime Minister Lofven lost a vote of confidence. The Speaker of the Riksdag, Andreas Norlen (Moderates) will now lead negotiations to form a new government. If no government can be formed after four attempts, new elections will be called.


  • Unicameral parliament in parliamentary constitutional monarchy: Riksdag (national legislature) composed of 349 representatives, supreme decision-making body in Sweden.
  • Elections held every 4 years with a proportional system; parties must win at least 4% of the vote nationally, or 12% of the vote in one constituency, to enter parliament.
  • Current governing coalition: Social Democrats and Green Party, with support of Left Party, led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (Social Democrats).


  • Establishment parties
    • Social Democratic Party (S): center-left; social democracy; pro-labor policies and welfare state; pro-immigration but increasingly restrictive since 2015 crisis; feminist foreign policy; pro-EU; wishes to avoid debate about potential NATO membership.
    • Moderate Party (M): center-right; liberal-conservative; pro-privatization and lower taxation; advocates for more restrictive immigration policies; pro-EU; pro-NATO membership; led by Ulf Kristersson who leads a 4-party, center-right coalition known as the Alliance.
    • Center Party (C): liberal; free-market economy; active in rural affairs and environmental protection; seeks some restrictions on immigration; relatively pro-EU.
    • Left Party (V): socialism; anti-privatization; feminism; pro-immigration; Euroscepticism; against NATO membership.
    • Green Party (MP): center; socially progressive; pro-environment; soft Euroscepticism; against NATO membership; currently in governing coalition with the Social Democrats.
    • Christian Democrats (KD): center-right; conservative; pro-business; relatively pro-EU; anti-immigration; focus on education policies; led by Ebba Busch Thor, member of the Alliance.
  • Extreme parties
    • Sweden Democrats (SD): far-right; nationalistic; socially conservative; neo-Nazi roots but has attempted to soften its image; strongly anti-immigration; Euroscepticism; pro-Russian; led by Jimmie Akesson.

Impact on U.S. Interests

  • The U.S. is Sweden’s 4th largest export market, with about $46.9 billion in Swedish FDI into the U.S. and 210,600 jobs in the U.S. created by Swedish businesses;
  • Sweden contributes to the coalition against ISIS through bilateral development aid ($3.5 million to Iraq in 2016) and the training mission in Iraq (70 military trainers); contributes troops to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan;
  • Sweden is a NATO “enhanced partner,” has U.S. bilateral and trilateral (with U.S. and Finland) security cooperation agreements, has agreed to purchase Patriot missiles, and will contribute to NATO’s largest military exercise this fall in and around Norway.
  • Received the second-largest number of asylum seekers (160,000 applications) during 2015 migration crisis, and is an important humanitarian aid donor in Syria.

Key Issues to Watch

  • The top three issues on Swedish voters’ minds for this election are: health care, immigration, and crime. Citizens are indeed concerned by an uptick in crime, which some perceive as being linked to Sweden’s immigration policies. The campaign’s immigration rhetoric has been harsher than usual, fueling the popularity of the far-right Sweden Democrats, and pushing other parties to adopt tougher immigration rhetoric.
  • Russian malign influence looms over the election, with the government warning against disinformation operations in early 2018. Russian amplification of political divisions over immigration has increased dramatically in the past few weeks. Sweden however has been very proactive in educating the public about media literacy and increasing cyber-defenses.
  • As elsewhere in Europe, Sweden’s political center has weakened and support for more extreme political views (such as SD’s) has grown, making election results unpredictable. Both the Social Democratic and Moderate parties have vowed not to form a coalition with SD (likely to be the 2nd largest party) but, if one or two smaller parties on the left or the right do not cross the 4% threshold to enter parliament, the coalition math becomes very difficult. Government formation will last for weeks or months, giving more space and legitimacy to extreme voices while demonstrating the weakness of the political center and of the European Union.


Data source: Ipsos, Novus.

Data source: Ipsos (August 16-24). Red Green Bloc: Social Democrats, Green Party, Left Party. Alliance: Moderates, Liberals, Center Party, Christian Democrats.