Voting in Sweden

Posted on 08. Sep, 2014 by in Current Events, Politics

There’s an election coming up in Sweden on Sunday, September 14. It’s an important one and will help determine who will lead the country for the next four years. Currently, there are eight parties represented in the Riksdag (parliament). Steve did a great job of going through some of this information in his post Left or right? Who knows! The Swedish elections of 2014, so definitely check that out. This post will focus a bit more on voting in Sweden, what it determines, how it is done, and who is eligible to vote.

Steve did a great job of listing the parties in order of their current parliamentary representation:

  • Socialdemokraterna (the Social Democrats)
  • Moderaterna (the Moderate Party)
  • Miljöpartiet de Gröna (the Green Party)
  • Folkpartiet Liberalerna (the Liberal People’s Party)
  • Centerpartiet (the Center Party)
  • Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats)
  • Kristdemokraterna (the Christian Democrats)
  • Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party)

Despite Socialdemokraterna having the highest percentage of the vote, the prime minister is from Moderaterna, Fredrik Reinfeldt. That is because, without a majority of the vote, political parties work together to form blocks: right and left, blue and red, conservative and liberal (I’m using American terms when it comes to conservative and liberal). So people aren’t necessarily voting for a prime minister, but instead for representation in the Riksdag. That means you see a lot of focus on campaigning for parties and maybe not as much for individual politicians. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of that too.

Valstuga Sergels torg 2010

Valstuga Sergels torg 2010

For the upcoming election, there are several other parties vying for a seat in the parliament including Feministiskt initiativ (Feminist Initiative), Piratpartiet (Pirate Party), and Kommunistiska partiet (Communist party). Of the parties not currently represented, however, only Feministiskt initiativ is expected to challenge for a seat in the parliament. It takes four percent of the vote to claim a seat in the Riksdag.

Voting in Swedish Riksdag elections is universal and open to all Swedish citizens who are over the age of 18. That includes Swedes living abroad. Swedish emigrants retain that right for ten years after having left Sweden. After that first ten years, Swedish citizens must submit notification of their desire to retain their voting rights, which gives the person another ten years to vote.

Voting in county and municipal elections is a little different. In these elections, you don’t actually have to be a citizen; you just have to be registered as having lived in Sweden continuously for the three years prior to the election.

While the election may be held, technically, on Sunday the 14th, voting has already begun. Sweden allows for advance voting, starting 18 days before the official election day. On election day, the polling station tends to be open from 8am to 8pm. Sweden’s efforts to make voting easy and accessible may contribute to the high voter turnout.

In 2010, 84.63% of registered voters cast a vote. That’s a grand total of 6,028,682 votes out of a population that, at the time, was 9,074,055 total (including anyone, such as children, not eligible to vote).

Interested in learning more about elections in Sweden? Check out Valmyndigheten (the Swedish Election Authority) or head over to your favorite Swedish newspaper site to practice your Swedish and get caught up on the issues.

Left or right? Who knows! The Swedish elections of 2014

Posted on 04. Sep, 2014 by in Current Events, Politics, Video

Hejsan! Welcome to In Sweden with Steve, a new series where I will occasionally talk about Sweden rather than Swedish. But don’t worry, you language-lovers out there will be introduced to some important practical vocabulary in these videos as well.

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So, the reason for the spontaneity of this series is the approach of a very important event in Swedish history: the general elections of 2014. Mycket står på spel – that is, much is at stake. And there are only 10 days left.

Before we begin, I would like to present the 8 political parties currently represented in Riksdagen – the Swedish parliament. In order of size in the current government:

–    Socialdemokraterna: The Social Democrats (link)
–    Moderaterna: The Moderate Party (link)
–    Miljöpartiet: The Green Party (link)
–    Folkpartiet: The People’s Party (link)
–    Centerpartiet: The Center Party (link)
–    Sverigedemokraterna: The Sweden Democrats (link)
–    Vänsterpartiet: The Left Party (link)
–    Kristdemokraterna: The Christian Democrats (link)

That’s a lot of parties when compared to in the United States where there are basically only two major parties. Aside from these 8 Swedish parties, though, there are two others that are fighting to enter the parliament:

–    Piratpartiet: The Pirate Party (link)
–    Feministiskt initiativ: Feminist Initiative (link)

Support for the Pirate Party has fluctuated over the years, while support for Feminist Initiative, a party whose goal is to combat discrimination on all grounds, has increased by over 1200% over the past year. There is a strong possibility that the party may enter Riksdagen this year.

To get into the Swedish parliament, a party must have at least 4% of the popular vote. In August, surveys showed that Feminist Initiative had around 3,4%. As you can imagine, the party is campaigning like crazy.

In Sweden, most of the parties cooperate in one of two blocks. There’s the left block, otherwise known as De rödgröna or “the Red-Greens”, and the right block, alliansen or “the Alliance”. The parties in the left block are, in order of size:

–    Socialdemokraterna: The Social Democrats
–    Miljöpartiet: The Green Party
–    Vänsterpartiet: The Left Party

The parties cooperating in the right block are:

–    Moderaterna: The Moderate Party
–    Folkpartiet: The People’s Party
–    Centerpartiet: The Center Party
–    Kristdemokraterna: The Christian Democrats

The eighth party, the one that does not exclusively collaborate with either of the two blocks, is Sverigedemokraterna, the Sweden Democrats, a nationalist conservative party comprising 5,7% of the current parliament. They are the direct rivals of Feminist Initiative. Because neither of the blocks gained a majority in the previous election, the Sweden Democrats have been functioning as vågmästare, the deal breakers with the final say in decisions if the two blocks disagree with each other. In most cases, they have tended to lean toward the right.

Recent surveys have implied that neither block will comprise a majority after this election either, which implies that the Sweden Democrats will remain the “deal breakers”. However, since the election in 2010, support for the left block has risen to just under 50%, while support for the right block has sunk to under 40%. If Feminist Initiative, a left-wing party, enters the Riksdag, they will undoubtedly work with the left block and effectively form a left-wing majority, removing the Sweden Democrats from their advantageous position as “deal breakers”.

Ten days from today, Swedish citizens will go to their local vallokal (polling station) and cast their votes. In the 2010 riksdagsval, or parliamentary election, 85% of Sweden’s 7 million eligible voters voted. This year, we hope to see even more people voting. We’re all looking forward to seeing the results of this exciting and decisive election!

What do you think will happen? Will the left block end up with a majority thanks to Feminist Initiative, or will the Sweden Democrats remain the deal breakers siding with the right block? Let us know what you think in the comments!

UPDATE 4/9 kl 12.00: There is news regarding support for Feministiskt initiativ. Comment first, then check it out!

Sources: Sverige Riksdag, Valmyndigheten, DN(1), DN(2), Facebook

Swedish False Friends

Posted on 29. Aug, 2014 by in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

A while ago, we talked about some of those words in Swedish that are the same in English in a creatively titled post English Words in Swedish. They’re the ones that make learning a language just a little bit easier. Of course, learning a language is always a challenge, no matter how many cognates there are because you also have false cognates. False friends if you will. We’ve posted a short piece titled Beware False Friends from a while ago.

Sometimes those false friends are spelled exactly the same as a word you know in English. Other times, the word might be close, so close, that you think you can guess it. You might be right. Or you might not be. So beware. Here are 20 false friends that you should learn, just to avoid any confusion:

Don't English grind on the Swedish grind. Photo credit: B. Marcus Cederström

Don’t English grind on the Swedish grind. Photo credit: B. Marcus Cederström

Svenska = Engelska

  1. bad (ett) = bath
  2. barn (ett) = child
  3. bra = good
  4. dog = died
  5. fart (en) = speed
  6. full = drunk
  7. gem (ett) = paper clip
  8. genus (ett) = gender
  9. grind (en) = gate
  10. gymnasium (ett) = high school
  11. kind (en) = cheek
  12. kiss (ett) = pee
  13. offer (ett) = victim or sacrifice
  14. personal (en) = staff/personnel
  15. pest (en) = plague
  16. semester (en) = vacation
  17. slut (ett) = end/finished
  18. smoking (en) = tuxedo
  19. stark = strong
  20. trams = nonsense

Of course, you can see the potential for problems here. If you’ve had enough to eat at dinner, don’t say you’re full. Unless you’ve also had too much to drink. With school starting, don’t say you’re dreading the start of the new semester. Unless you’re going on a horrible vacation. If you ask for a gem, don’t be surprised when someone gives you a paper clip. I think you understand how this works.

And those are just the ones that are spelled the same. There are plenty of others, like val. Kind of looks like whale. It does mean whale. Kind of. If it is EN val, it is a whale. If it is ETT val, it is an election. So right now in Sweden, there is ETT val coming up. Not EN val. We’ll be voting in elections, not whales.

Good luck and be sure to write more of your false friends in the comments below.