Today is election day in Sweden and it’s going to be a nailbiter. Felix and I just clumped home in the rain after a trip to the (thankfully nearby) booth.
Here, they’re every four years and voting isn’t mandatory. From what I can gather, though, turnout seems good at around 80%. There is no preference system which I guess has its good points, but the problem, as I see it, is that people don’t vote for parties that might not get into parliament even if they agree with the party’s policies.
To get into parliament in the Swedish system, a party needs at least 4% of the vote. Last election, the Feminist Initiative got 3.1% of the vote, which was actually a very impressive result for such a fringe party, but not enough for a seat. It was a growth from just 0.4% the previous election. Unfortunately, after a great year of campaigning they lost a lot of momentum after that failure to get into parliament. Polls are now showing them on around 1.8% of the vote for this election. Due to Sweden’s lack of preferences, all those 3.1% of votes went in the bin.
The Greens first entered parliament in 1988 as the first new party in 70 years, dropped back below the 4% threshold three years later, but returned and remained there since 1994. This year, things look dicey for them, despite having received 6.9% of the vote last election, making them the fourth largest party in parliament. They became part of the bloc that formed government for the first time. This year, polls aren’t looking great for them, but I suspect they will get over the line.
Another party in left bloc is The Left Party (known between 1921 to 1990 as various forms of The Communist Party). Current polling shows the party as the fourth largest. Despite good voter representation, the party has never been in government even as a minor party.
The largest party currently, and likely to remain so by a tight margin, is the Social Democratic Party who, while largely accepted as left wing, have made a series of significant compromises particularly in the area of immigration to lose a lot of voter confidence. They took back government from The Moderates at the last election.
It seems mostly likely that the left bloc will remain in power but only just.
The most dramatic aspect of today’s election is the massive increase in votes going to The Sweden Democrats, a party rooted in neo-Nazi origins and rabidly anti-immigration. A huge chunk of votes from The Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals (similar to Australia’s Liberals in their anti-liberalness, and formerly The People’s Party), and the Center Party (formerly the Peasants League) have gone to the Sweden Democrats, taking them from 12.9% from last election to a forecast 16-21% this year. While it’s unlikely the party will be allowed into government (all other parties are currently promising not to cooperate with them), it’s a possibility – and not a pleasant one.
It seems like the most likely outcome will be a left bloc win with a tight margin and the Sweden Democrats as kingmaker. The left bloc might be forced to join with one of the slightly more palatable right wing parties (The Center Party or The Liberals) or form a mega alliance with the whole right bloc in order to avoid anyone working with the Sweden Democrats. Forming government looks like it will be difficult and time consuming and generally pretty icky.
It’s pretty different to the Australian system, and very interesting. Tonight, the country will be dotted with election result parties, aptly named “valvakor” or “election wakes”. Hopefully that somewhat grim double meaning will not be relevant tonight.