The Riksdag in Swedish society

The Riksdag takes decisions that affect the whole of society. There is extensive interaction between the Riksdag and other public sector actors such as the Government, public agencies, municipalities, regions and the EU.

The Riksdag

The Riksdag is responsible for passing laws in Sweden. Decisions taken by the Riksdag apply throughout the country. This means that the Riksdag takes decisions on a national level.

If the Riksdag takes a decision regarding schooling, for example, it may apply to how the grading system should be applied or how state funding to schools should be distributed. The Riksdag does not decide whether or not to close a particular school, or whether an upper-secondary school is to start charging for school dinners. Such responsibility falls to the municipality where the school is located.

The Government

After the voters have elected the 349 members who are to represent them in the Riksdag, the Riksdag appoints a Prime Minister. After this, the Prime Minister appoints the ministers who will form part of the Government.

The Government must be supported by the Riksdag, otherwise it may be forced to resign. At any point in time, the Riksdag is free to hold a vote of confidence to see whether the Government still enjoys the Riksdag’s support. This is known as parliamentary government.

The Constitution states that the Government governs the nation. It does this by presenting proposals, also known as “Government bills”, on which the Riksdag is to adopt a position. The Government is responsible for implementing the Riksdag's decisions. To put it simply, one can say that the Government proposes and implements, whilst the Riksdag decides.

The Government can also decide on rules that everyone in Sweden must comply with. Such rules are known as ordinances. But it is the Riksdag alone that passes laws.

The Government also governs how public agencies carry out their work. This is done annually by means of appropriation directions. Within the appropriation directions, it is laid out how the public agencies should carry out their work and what funds they have to do so.  

By contrast, the Government cannot determine how public agencies apply the laws, or directly intervene in the work of the public agencies, which is sometimes referred to as “ministerial rule”.  There are approximately 250 public agencies in Sweden. Examples include the Swedish Police Authority, the Swedish Migration Agency and the Swedish Tax Agency.

The Government website

The EU

Sweden is a member of the European Union, the EU. Decisions taken by the EU affect everyone living in Sweden. Many of the proposals that the Riksdag decides on originate from the EU. This may, for example, include proposals concerning environmental issues, agricultural policy, energy or crime prevention.

There are also policy areas in which the EU cannot take decisions. These include the member states’ housing policies, healthcare and educational issues.

The Government represents Sweden in the EU Council of Ministers. Within the European Parliament, 21 members come from Sweden. Sweden also has a commissioner in the European Commission.

About EU on the Riksdag webpage

The municipalities

There are 290 municipalities in Sweden. They are responsible for many of the public services where we live. These include pre-schools, waste management, schools, social services and elderly care. Each municipality has a municipal council. In the municipal councils, a body of local politicians takes decisions regarding the municipality. The decisions may, for example, concern the construction of a new public swimming pool or a new pre-school.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions

The regions

There are 21 regions in Sweden. They are primarily responsible for managing health and medical care services, public transport and regional development. Regional political decisions are taken in the regional council. Decisions may for example concern whether a regional hospital should be closed or the price of bus fares.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions

The public agencies

The public agencies are responsible for ensuring that the Riksdag’s and the Government’s decisions are implemented.  For example, if the Riksdag decides to send a peacekeeping force to Afghanistan, it is the Swedish Armed Forces that ensures that this is carried out. And if the Riksdag decides to change the grading system, it is the Swedish National Agency for Education that ensures that the decision is implemented.

The public agencies are answerable to the Government and come under different government ministries. The public agencies can, however, independently decide on matters that concern the exercise of public authority. That is to say, decisions and measures that the authority takes in matters relating to an individual.

The public agencies on the Government website

The courts

The courts put the politicians' decisions into practice. The task of the courts is to judge in criminal cases and to resolve disputes between citizens or between citizens and public agencies.  According to Swedish law, everyone is equal before the law.

The Swedish courts website

The media

The media has a role in influencing the development of society. Through news coverage and information, the media influences public opinion, that is, what people feel and think. The media is sometimes referred to as the third public power. The Riksdag and the Government are the first public powers.

The market

Products and services are sold on the market. The market comprises both businesses and consumers and market developments influence the country’s economy and labour market. Economic development in the business and industrial sector affects, for example, the revenue that the central government, the municipalities and the regions derive from taxes which can in turn be used to fund their activities.


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