A new government needs to be formed when a previous government has resigned. This normally occurs after a parliamentary election. However, a new government may also need to be formed if the previous government resigns following a declaration of no confidence towards the prime minister from the Riksdag, or if the prime minister chooses to resign for other reasons.
When a new government is to be formed, the Speaker of the Riksdag prepares a proposal for prime minister, which is then voted on by the Riksdag. The candidate who is chosen as prime minister subsequently appoints the ministers who will make up the government.
The government governs Sweden by implementing the Riksdag's decisions, and presenting proposals for new legislation and for amendments to existing laws. The government must be accepted by the Riksdag. If the government loses the support of the Riksdag, it may be forced to resign. When a prime minister resigns, the entire government also resigns.
The government may be reshuffled considerably without it being a question of forming a new government. The prime minister may replace ministers and increase or decrease the number of ministers without the Riksdag's involvement.
Various reasons for forming a new government
A government may remain in office for as long as it has sufficient support in the Riksdag. There are several reasons why a government may need to resign and a new government be formed.
The composition of the government changes after a general election
The governing party, or a coalition of several parties, may lose its majority in the Riksdag at a general election. In such a situation, the prime minister can choose to resign voluntarily, or may be forced to resign following the vote on the prime minister that is held in the Riksdag following an election. This is the most common reason for a government resigning.
If the prime minister chooses to resign after an election, he or she approaches the Speaker of the Riksdag with a request to step down from office. Once the Speaker has approved the application, it is the Speaker's task to prepare a proposal for a new prime minister.
If the prime minister chooses to remain in office after an election, a vote on the prime minister is held in the Riksdag within two weeks from the newly elected members first convening in the Riksdag. If more than half of the members of the Riksdag vote no to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister must resign. Otherwise, the Prime Minister may remain in office. Since 2014, it has been compulsory to hold a vote on the prime minister following a parliamentary election.
The Riksdag can vote on a declaration of no confidence
At least 35 members of the Riksdag can request a declaration of no confidence directed towards the prime minister, and thus also the government. This is known as voting on a declaration of no confidence. If at least half the total number of members, i.e. 175, vote in favour of a declaration of no confidence, the government must resign or announce an extraordinary election.
Declarations of no confidence in the Riksdag
The government may request a vote of confidence
A government may feel forced to resign if it loses an important vote in the Riksdag. Occasionally a government has deliberately chosen to give the Riksdag an ultimatum by declaring that it will resign if voted down on a specific matter. This is known as requesting a vote of confidence.
Internal tensions within the government
Internal problems and tensions can lead to a prime minister's, and thus the whole government's, resignation. This especially applies to coalition government, consisting of ministers from more than one party.
A prime minister may resign for personal reasons
An incumbent prime minister may also choose to resign for personal reasons, or other reasons not directly related to an election defeat or insufficient support in the Riksdag.
Forming a government
When a government resigns, it is the Speaker that gives his or her consent to the resignation of the prime minister and the other ministers.
It is then the Speaker's task to prepare a proposal for a new prime minister. The Speaker holds talk with representatives of all the parties in the Riksdag in order to find out which candidate for prime minister has the greatest support among the parties in the Riksdag and will therefore be able to become Sweden's next prime minister and form a government with sufficient support from the Riksdag.
According to the rules of the Instrument of Government, the incumbent government then remains in place as a caretaker government. A caretaker government manages routine matters, but according to practice it does not take any new political initiatives.
The Speaker may assign the task of exploring the possibilities of forming a government
Once the Speaker has spoken to all the party representatives, he or she can give the task of exploring the possibilities of forming a government to one of them. How the procedure for the task is organised and how much time it is to take is decided by the incumbent Speaker. The task may, for example, involve the representative of a party investigating which Riksdag parties support him or her in forming a government.
The resigning Speaker starts the task
The Riksdag elects a Speaker after each parliamentary election. Around two weeks after the election, the newly elected MPs meet in the Chamber for the first time. After the roll-call of the members has been held, the Riksdag has to vote on who is to become the Speaker. If the Riksdag elects a new Speaker, it is the newly elected Speaker that presents a proposal for a new prime minister to the Riksdag. In order not to lose time, however, the resigning Speaker prepares the change of government by starting talks with the party representatives immediately after a government has resigned. The resigning Speaker then hands over the task of forming a government to the new Speaker.
The Speaker proposes a candidate for prime minister
When the Speaker has a proposal for a new prime minister and has consulted the Deputy Speakers, the proposal is presented in the Chamber of the Riksdag and is tabled for the first time. When the Speaker presents the proposal, he or she also states which parties are to be included in the government. The purpose is to find the candidate with the greatest likelihood of forming a government with sufficient support in the Riksdag.
The tasks of the Speaker
The Riksdag votes on the proposal for prime minister
The Speaker's proposal for prime minister is tabled a second time and is then examined by the members of the Riksdag no later than four days after the proposal was presented by means of a vote in the Chamber. If more than half of the members of the Riksdag, that is at least 175 members, vote against the proposal, it is rejected. Otherwise, it is approved.
The Speaker may present four proposals
If the proposal does not gain sufficient support, the Speaker must talk to the party representatives again, consult the Deputy Speakers and then present a new proposal. The Speaker has four opportunities to do this. If no proposal for a new prime minister receives sufficient support, extraordinary parliamentary elections must be held within three months. In such a situation, the Speaker has to decide the date of the election in consultation with the Election Authority.
The prime minister appoints the government ministers
It is the prime minister who decides which ministers will make up the government. As soon as possible after the prime minister's appointment, he or she must inform the Riksdag of the names of the ministers he or she has appointed.
The prime minister delivers a statement of government policy
When the newly elected Riksdag has been convened and a new prime minister has been appointed, the prime minister delivers a statement of government policy to the Riksdag. In this statement, the prime minister presents an outline of the government's intended policies.
Change of government at a Council of State
The formal change of government takes place at a Council of State at the Royal Palace. This is a government meeting at which is chaired by the head of state, that is the ruling king or queen. During the meeting, the Speaker gives an account of the proposal and the decision of the Riksdag. The head of state then announces that a change of government has taken place.
A government may be reshuffled without the Riksdag's involvement
Several ministers in a government may be replaced without it being a question of forming a new government. The Prime Minister may transfer ministers, increase or decrease the number of ministers or replace ministers without the Riksdag's involvement. If the prime minister chooses to resign, however, the whole government also resigns.
The formation of a new government autumn 2021
On 10 November, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democratic Party) formally requested to resign as prime minister. The Speaker Andreas Norlén then commenced the task of preparing a proposal for a new prime minister that could be approved by the Riksdag. On 29 November, the Riksdag approved the Speaker's proposal, Magdalena Andersson (Social Democratic Party), and on 30 November she took office as Prime Minister. The process of forming a government took a total of 20 days from Stefan Löfven's request to resign to the day Magdalena Andersson took office. Here you will find further information about the process of forming a government in the autumn of 2021.
The formation of a new government autumn 2021
The process of forming a government after the 2018 elections
After the 2018 elections, the incumbent Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democratic Party) chose to remain in office. At the vote on the prime minister in the Riksdag, more than half of the members of the Riksdag voted against Stefan Löfven as prime minister, and he resigned. After 134 days, however, Löfven was chosen as prime minister once again, after various alternatives had failed to gain sufficient support in the Riksdag. The Speaker's task of proposing a new prime minister and the votes in the Chamber are described in a report:
Memorandum on the process of forming a government and the change of government after the 2018 elections – in Swedish(pdf, 560 kB)
Three votes on the Speaker's proposal for a new prime minister were held after the elections in September 2018 (in Swedish):