Elections to the Riksdag

The Riksdag is Sweden’s highest decision-making assembly. Elections to the Riksdag are held every four years, on the second Sunday in September. This is a chance for the voters to visit the polling stations to determine which individuals will represent them in parliament. Elections to the regional and municipal councils are held on the same day as the parliamentary elections.

There are 349 seats in the Riksdag which are distributed following the parliamentary elections. The number of seats each party receives should be in proportion to the number of votes the party received in the elections. The general rule is that a particular party must receive at least four per cent of the votes in order to enter the Riksdag.

When the polling stations have closed on election day, election workers carry out a preliminary count of the votes. This is the result that is presented in the media’s election night coverage.

The final count is of the votes is then carried out during the following week by the county administrative boards. All counts are open to the public.

The Election Authority announces the final results of the elections to the Riksdag approximately one week after election day.

Swedish citizens can vote in and stand for elections to the Riksdag

All Swedish citizens who have reached the age of 18 by election day and who are or have been registered as resident in Sweden are eligible to vote in elections to the Riksdag.

Anyone wishing to stand for election as a member of the Riksdag must be entitled to vote in the parliamentary elections and be nominated, that is, chosen as a candidate by a political party. Candidates who are nominated must have agreed to be nominated in advance. A member of the Riksdag may represent a constituency where he or she does not actually reside.

Possible to vote in advance or on election day

Anyone who is eligible to vote can vote at a polling station on election day or vote in advance in any of the locations decided by the municipalities.

For people who are old, sick, have a functional disability or are unable to get to a polling station for some other reason, it is also possible to vote by proxy.

Swedish citizens living abroad may send their votes by post or vote at a Swedish embassy or consulate.

Information about how to vote on the Election Authority website

Different kinds of ballot papers

There are different kinds of ballot papers: party ballot papers, name ballot papers and blank ballot papers. To vote, voters can choose a party ballot paper with the name of the party they wish to vote for, or a name ballot paper which lists the party’s candidates in a specific order.  The voter can choose to cast a personal preference vote by putting an "x" by the name of a specific candidate from the list of candidates, or by writing the name of a specific candidate on the party ballot paper.

It is also possible to vote for parties and candidates by writing the name of a party, or a party and a candidate, on a blank ballot paper.

How ballot papers work on the Election Authority website

Sweden is divided into constituencies

The votes in elections to the Riksdag are distributed first among the parties and then among the candidates in a constituency.

There are 29 constituencies in Sweden. These are mainly coterminous with the counties, but the highly populated Counties of Stockholm, Skåne and Västra Götaland each comprise several constituencies.

A normal-sized constituency elects approximately 10–12 members of the Riksdag. There are great differences between the constituencies. The largest constituency is the County of Stockholm, which has 43 members after the 2022 elections. The smallest is the County of Gotland, with two members.

How the seats are distributed in the Riksdag

The Swedish electoral system is a proportional one. This means that the number of seats any one party obtains in the Riksdag is proportional to the number of votes the party received in the elections. There are 349 seats in the Riksdag altogether. Once the county administrative boards have counted the votes, the Election Authority distributes the seats among the parties on the basis of the election results.

Threshold against small parties

The threshold rule means that any one particular party must receive at least 4 per cent of the votes to be allocated seats in the Riksdag. As a result, there are fewer small parties in the Riksdag than there may have been otherwise.

An exception from this general rule is made if a party receives at least 12 per cent of the votes in any one constituency. The party can then participate in the allocation of seats in that particular constituency, even if it has not received 4 per cent of the votes over the whole country.

Seats are first distributed among the parties

The 349 seats consist of 310 fixed constituency seats and 39 adjustment seats. The number of fixed constituency seats in each constituency is based on the number of people eligible to vote in the constituency. The distribution of these seats reflects the election results in each constituency.

The purpose of the 39 adjustment seats is to make sure that the distribution of seats between the parties over the whole country is as proportional in relation to the number of votes as possible. The adjustment seats are therefore allocated in a way that corresponds to the share of votes the party has received in the country as a whole.

Then the members are appointed

Once the seats in the Riksdag have been distributed among the parties, it is time to distribute them among the party candidates.

When the members of the Riksdag are appointed, the name ballot papers with the parties’ lists of candidates are compared with the names the voters have marked or the names they have written on the ballot papers when submitting personal preference votes.

A candidate who is low down on a party list can, for example, gain a seat in the Riksdag if at least 5 per cent of those voting for a certain party in any one constituency have submitted a personal preference vote for him or her. If more than one candidate has achieved the 5 per cent level, the seats are allocated on the basis of the number of personal preference votes.

When there are no longer any candidates with more than five per cent personal preference votes, the seats are distributed in the order they are listed on the name ballot papers.

Seats in the Riksdag are distributed according to the adjusted odd numbers method

The Election Authority allocates the fixed seats among the parties using a method known as the adjusted odd numbers method. In broad terms, the method allows the number of votes for each party to be divided by a series of numbers until all of the 310 seats have been allocated.

About the distribution of seats on the Election Authority website

Seats in the Riksdag are personal

Seats in the Riksdag are personal. If a member chooses to leave his or her party during the electoral period, he or she may remain in the Riksdag, but without belonging to a party. A member of the Riksdag may not resign his or her mandate without the Riksdag giving its consent. There is, in other words, a certain obligation to remain in one’s assignment.

Even when members leave their party, they are able, freely and independently, to continue to carry out their assignment as a member of the Riksdag.

Extraordinary elections

An extraordinary election to the Riksdag is an election that may be held between ordinary elections, during an ongoing electoral period. If a decision has been taken to hold an extraordinary election, it must be held within three months of the decision. The procedure for extraordinary elections is more or less the same as for ordinary elections, except the period for certain preparations is shorter.

The Government can call an extraordinary election

An incumbent government may decide to call an extraordinary parliamentary election between ordinary elections. The government then decides the date of the election. Extraordinary elections must be held within three months of the decision.

If a majority in the Riksdag decides that it does not have confidence in the prime minister or another minister, it can direct a declaration of no confidence at that minister. If the Riksdag directs a declaration of no confidence at the prime minister, the prime minister and government must resign or call an extraordinary election. If the government decides to call an extraordinary election following a declaration of no confidence, the decision must be taken within a week of the declaration of no confidence.

Declaration of no confidence

If the Speaker’s proposal for prime minister is not approved

When a government resigns, it is the Speaker’s task to prepare a proposal for a new prime minister. If the Speaker fails four times to get his or her proposal for prime minister approved by the Riksdag, an extraordinary election must be held. The Speaker must then decide when to hold the election in consultation with the Election Authority. Also in this case, the extraordinary election must be held within three months.

Decisions regarding extraordinary elections may not be taken by a caretaker government, that is a government that has resigned but remains in office to carry out routine tasks until a new government has been appointed.

When an extraordinary election has been announced, the Speaker may decide at the request of the government to call a recess in the work of the Riksdag until a newly elected Riksdag has convened after the election.

Forming a government 

Not instead of ordinary elections

Extraordinary elections do not affect the procedure for ordinary general elections. The members of the Riksdag who are elected in an extraordinary election do not, in other words, start a new four-year electoral period, they remain in office until the next general election.

Extraordinary elections may be announced not earlier than three months after a newly elected Riksdag has convened for the first time after an ordinary election.

If a government has resigned and an ordinary election is scheduled within three months, an extraordinary election cannot be called.

Extraordinary elections are unusual

Extraordinary elections are unusual in Sweden. Since the advent of democracy in the early 1920s, an extraordinary election has been held just once. This was in the election to the Second Chamber on 1 June 1958. The main electoral issue on that occasion was the national supplementary pension.

Since 2011, it has also been possible to hold extraordinary elections in municipalities and regions.

Elections and referendums can be appealed

It is possible to lodge an appeal relating to general elections and referendums with the Election Review Board. This can be done at the earliest the day after the election or referendum and at the latest ten days after the results have been established and published.


About the page