Sweden: Reinfeldt faces Sahlin in battle of coalitions

Election Date: September 14, 2010

At stake: Diet


Once the dominant power in the region, Sweden ceded its control over Finland in 1809 and dissolved its union with Norway in 1905. While it remained officially neutral through both world wars, Sweden was forced to grant German troops passage through the country as they marched to invade Norway in the Second World War.

Sweden’s internationalist bona fides are matched by its noted commitment at home to the “Swedish model” of economics, which stresses private-public partnerships as an integral component of a generous social welfare system.

The Workers’ Party – Social-Democrats (S) have formed government for all but nine of the past 74 years, and, as such, oversaw much of the country’s transformation to its present status as a fully-developed and prosperous democracy.

In 1971, the country’s bicameral parliament was replaced by a single chamber legislature to which members are elected by proportional representation. Four years later, in 1975, the last vestiges of the monarchy’s constitutional powers were transferred to the government. Still, as in a number of other European countries, the royal family retains its titles and performs ceremonial duties.

Swedes voted by a narrow margin to support entry into the European Union (EU) in 1994 and on Jan. 1, 1995, Sweden officially became a member of the EU. However, in a referendum held in 2003, Swedes rejected the adoption of the euro as the country’s currency.

In 2002, for a third consecutive election, the Workers’ Party – Social-Democrats (S) of prime minister Goran Persson earned the most seats in the 349-member Diet. However, with only 144 legislators, the Social Democrats did not garner a majority and therefore govern in an informal coalition with the Left Party (Vp) and the Environmental Party – The Greens (MP), which had 30 and 17 elected members, respectively.

In September 2006, Swedish voters renewed the Diet. The centre-right alliance secured 178 seats, ending the ten-year tenure of Persson. Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt became prime minister in October 2006.

In January 2007, former sustainable development minister Mona Sahlin took over as the new leader of the Social-Democrats.

Click Here for Sweden’s 2006 Diet Election Tracker

On Jan. 21, all parties in the governing coalition—with the exception of the Christian-Democrats—presented a bill to legalize same-sex marriages celebrated in civil ceremonies or in the Lutheran Church. Prime Minister Reinfeldt declared: “The main proposal in the motion is that a person’s gender will no longer have any bearing on whether they can marry. The marriage law and other laws concerning spouses will be rendered gender neutral according to the proposal.”

In April, same-sex marriages became fully recognized by the Swedish state.

2010 Diet Election

The legislative election is scheduled for Sept. 19.

Voting intention polls suggest that there will be a tight race between the governing alliance of centre-right parties—featuring the Moderate Rally Party (M), the People’s Party Liberals (FpL), the Centre Party (C) and the Christian-Democrats (KD)—and the centre-left opposition parties: the Workers’ Party – Social-Democrats (S), the Environmental Party – The Greens (MP), and the Left Party (Vp).

The Pan-European Pirate Party (P), based in Sweden, will seek to win seats in the Diet. The party advocates for allowing legal internet file sharing.

Moderate leader Fredrik Reinfeldt has been prime minister since October 2006. Mona Sahlin is the leader of the Social-Democrats.

On Jan. 31, leaders of the five main political parties participated in a televised debate. Sahlin discussed the tax policies of the Social Democrats, saying, “We have confirmed our position on property taxes. Those living in the most expensive homes will pay more and those living in cheaper houses and apartments will pay less. (…) Our tax cuts will be aimed primarily at pensioners.”

In March, the Moderates introduced a bill proposing the construction of new nuclear power plants in Sweden. Solveig Ternstromm, a lawmaker with the Centre Party, said that she rejects her party’s apparent support for the bill, declaring, “During the 1980s, everyone talked about the risks all the time. But not anymore. (…) This bill is a betrayal. It’s the new generation. They don’t know how dangerous it is.”

On May 12, Reinfeldt rejected a proposal that would see the national budgets of all European Union (EU) countries revised by the European Commission before being approved by individual legislatures. The Swedish prime minister declared: “We think it’s odd that it would apply to all countries. (…) I will object to this way of looking at things.”

On Jun. 16, during a debate of party leaders in the legislature, Sahlin confronted the prime minister over high unemployment amongst young people, saying, “What are you waiting for? When will Sweden have an active policy against youth unemployment?”

On Jun. 18, Swedish lawmakers overturned a 30-year-old ban on new nuclear reactors. Andreas Carlgren, environment minister and a proponent of nuclear energy as a way to reduce carbon emissions, praised the vote saying, “With this bill, we can leave decades of political strife behind us.”

Political Players

King: Carl XVI Gustaf
Prime minister: Fredrik Reinfeldt – M

Legislative Branch: The Riksdag (Diet) has 349 members, elected to four-year terms by proportional representation.

Results of Last Election:

Diet – Sept. 17, 2006

Vote% Seats
Opposition Alliance (Centre-Right) 48.24% 178
Moderate Rally Party (M)



Centre Party (C)



People’s Party Liberals (FpL)



Christian-Democrats (KD)



Governing Coalition (Centre-Left) 46.08% 171
Workers’ Party – Social-Democrats (S)



Left Party (Vp)



Environmental Party – The Greens (MP)