Values and rights

All public power in Sweden proceeds from the people. This is the opening line of the Instrument of Government from 1974, which summarises Sweden's system of government. 349 Members are elected to represent the Swedish people in the Riksdag, tThey will then represent the collective will of the Swedish proper and create a policy that takes into account the interests of the nation as a whole. But democracy is not only about political decisions, it as also about fundamental rights and freedoms and obligations which we have commonly agreed upon in Sweden.

The characteristics of democracy

Democracy means government by the people. In all democracies, it is the people who have the political power, but how this manifests itself in practice can vary between democratic states. Some fundamental principles apply, however.

Free elections

Free and fair elections are of central importance to democracies. In Sweden, general elections to the Riksdag, the municipalities and the regions are held every four years. Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. Swedish citizens who have reached 18 years of age and are or have been registered as resident in Sweden may vote in the elections to the Riksdag. You do not need to be a Swedish citizen to vote in the municipal and regional elections. In the 2022 parliamentary elections, there was a turn-out of over 84 per cent. Sweden has a high turnout when seen in an international context.

Several parties

For an election to be classed as democratic, there must ne several different parties to choose from political parties to choose from. There are eight political parties represented in the Swedish Parliament. What these parties have in common is that they have each received at least four per cent of the country’s votes. Parties that receive fewer votes are not allocated seats in the Riksdag.

Political rights

People must be guaranteed political rights. The right to vote, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly are all examples of political rights. You should be able to make your voice heard in many ways. No one may stop you from becoming involved in political matters. These rights are guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution.

Legal rights and equality before the law

Everyone is equal before the law. Courts and other public agencies must act in accordance with the rule of law. Swedish courts are independent in relation to those with political power. The courts judge according to the laws that apply in Sweden. All citizens are entitled to an objective, impartial and fair trial.

Respect for human rights

All people shall be regarded as equal, regardless of gender, ethnicity or other personal qualities. Our human rights are ensured by the Swedish Constitution and special acts of law to combat discrimination and hate crime. Corporal punishment is not allowed in Sweden. The death penalty is prohibited in accordance with the Swedish Constitution. By international standards, the individual’s rights and freedoms are extensive in Sweden.

A central government administration that works

It is important that public agencies work efficiently and according to the rule of law. The public agencies must be in a position to implement the decisions made by the elected representatives. There is no place for corruption and abuse of power within the central government administration. It is important that control instruments exist which can examine how the central government administration conducts its duties. The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the National Audit Office are two bodies that ensure that the Swedish central government administration acts in an efficient and lawful manner.

Freedom and rights

The Swedish Constitution protects the right of all citizens to engage and work in politics. The Constitution also includes certain provisions which limit our freedoms and rights. It is not permitted, for example, to threaten the country’s security through the spreading of confidential information or to be involved in terrorism. Ordinary laws can also limit our freedoms and rights. It is illegal, for example, to threaten, harm, defame, disturb public order or to discriminate against others when exercising our rights.

Freedom of information

Nothing prevents us in Sweden from reading the books we wish to read, watching films or googling freely on the internet.

Freedom of opinion

No one can force us to feel or think in a certain way. We are not forced to share our opinions with others if we do not wish to.

Freedom of press and freedom of expression

We have the right to feel and think freely and to spread our opinions to other people.

Right to transparency

We can access public agency records, decisions and other official documents and attend political meetings as well as hearings in court.

The rule of law

Courts and public agencies must exercise their power in accordance with the rules that our elected politicians have set. Anyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial.

Protection against discrimination

No one shall be treated differently based on personal qualities such as gender, gender identity or expression, ethnic origin, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age.

The freedom of assembly, association and demonstration

We have the right to organise and to take part in meetings and demonstrations. We can join parties, trade unions and other associations, or create a completely new association if needed.


We live in a democracy. This impacts our lives. Many of the everyday things that you do, you are able to do because of the very fact that Sweden is a democracy. In a dictatorship, these things could be illegal. Democracy impacts our lives each and every day. Everyday life looks completely different in many countries.

Love who you choose to

You choose for yourself how you want to live your life. In some countries, it is illegal to love someone of the same sex. There is a discrimination act in Sweden which aims to prevent discrimination and to promote equal rights and opportunities. No one should be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation. To be able to choose who you love is a human right.

Criticising those in power

Even if it is the citizens of democratic countries who have elected the politicians, the political powers must still always be examined. In Sweden, you are permitted to criticise the leaders as we enjoy both freedom of expression and freedom of press in our country. Those living in a dictatorship do not have access to an impartial and free press. In dictatorships, the media are often an extension of the powers in charge, which means that investigative journalism doesn’t exist.

Choosing what to wear

You choose yourself what to wear. Jeans, a skirt, a turban, a veil, a cap or knee tassels - most things work. But in some countries, there are strict rules for what clothing is permitted and penalties may be issued if those rules are not followed.

Being part of an association

No one may prevent you from joining and working in an association. Perhaps your association has a website that criticises politicians for not engaging sufficiently in issues that you care about. This is perfectly fine. Every year, people are imprisoned, tortured and even executed for having “wrong” opinions or for being part of a prohibited party or organisation.

Searching for information on the internet

Being able to browse the internet freely is taken for granted in Sweden. The State cannot decide which websites its citizens are allowed to visit as long as they are not illegal. It is common in dictatorships that regimes block, censor or filter people’s access to the internet. Websites where those in power are criticised are not visible to citizens - the people in power make sure of that.

No corporal punishment

Corporal punishment is illegal in Sweden. The State is not permitted to punish a person by means of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment, or even capital punishment, is legal in many countries. Sweden was the first country in the world to ban corporal punishment of children in 1979. There are countries around the world where corporal punishment of children is permitted. No adult in Sweden is allowed to hit a child, whether at home, at school or anywhere else.

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