Sunday 11th September is election day in Sweden – where voters can elect a new parliament and decide the make-up of the country’s regional and municipal councils – all Swedish political bodies are elected to the same four-year term. Snap parliamentary elections are possible, but the new parliament would only get to serve what was left of the original parliament’s term – even if that was only a matter of months!
Sweden’s Parliamentary Voting System
Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, has 349 members. It’s had this many members since the 1973 election ended in an exact draw between parties of the left and right – to stop it from happening again they changed to an odd number of seats.
The Riksdag is elected using a two-tier List PR system. 310 seats are elected directly in Sweden’s 29 constituencies, which are based around Sweden’s counties (with the largest divided). Each constituency elects a small team of MPs that reflect the spread of political opinions in the seat. The remaining 39 seats are decided by national vote totals, designed to correct any disproportionality that arises in the constituencies.
To be able to win seats, a party must either win 4% of the vote across the country, or they can win seats in a particular constituency if they win more than 12% of the vote there.
Swedish ballot papers
When going to vote, voters pick from three types of ballot papers – ‘party’, which contain the name of just one party; ‘name’, which contain a list of candidates from one party; and ‘blank’, on which voters can write the name of their preferred party and/or candidate. On ‘name’ or ‘blank’ ballots, voters can indicate a single preference vote for one candidate on a party list. If a candidate wins more than 5% of the votes for their party in that constituency, they jump to the top of their list. But, as only around a quarter of voters cast a candidate vote, this can be tricky.
As each party has their own ballot papers, secrecy is provided by putting the ballot in an envelope before submitting it. While voters can select multiple parties’ ballots, and then only submit their chosen one, questions have been raised about the level of secrecy this provides.
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