Riksdag has been the name of many different Swedish polities during the ages. This writeup is about the current Riksdag (the 20th and 21st centuries.) The word Riksdag itself is hard to translate. Encyclopædia Britannica's translation: "Day of the Realm" is the best one I've seen so far.
The Riksdag is Sweden's legislative body and the foremost representative of the Swedish people. It has 349 seats. Elections are held on the third Sunday of September every four years (1994, 1998, 2002, etc.). The next election will be held in 2006.
The Riksdag has looked like it does today since 1971, when the earlier bicameral Riksdag was replaced by the current unicameral. It was one step towards the replacement of Regeringsformen, one of Sweden's four constitutional laws, in 1974. Between 1971 and 1976, the Riksdag had 350 seats. This was changed to 349 after both blocs had received 175 seats each in the 1973 election and several decisions had to be made by drawing lots.
What the Riksdag is allowed to do, not to do and how to do it is regulated in Regeringsformen and Riksdagsordningen. Riksdagsordningen is a law that's somewhere in-between being a constitutional law and being an ordinary law.
The Riksdag elects the cabinet (regeringen) and the prime minister, makes laws, decides about taxation and confirms international treaties.
There are seven parties represented in the Swedish Riksdag. Their names, the number of seats they hold and their abbreviations are shown in the table below.
Swedish name | Abbr. | # of seats | English name
Socialdemokraterna s 144 the Social Democratic Party
Moderata samlingspartiet m 55 the Moderate Party
Folkpartiet liberalerna fp 48 the Liberal Party
Kristdemokraterna kd 33 the Christian Democrats
Vänsterpartiet v 30 the Left Party
Centerpartiet c 22 the Centre Party
Miljöpartiet de gröna mp 17 the Green Party
The correct name for Socialdemokraterna
is Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti
The abbreviations shown here are the official ones. They are used almost everywhere in place of the longer party names.
The current government is a minority government with all ministers being Social Democratic. It is supported by the three left-wing parties in the Riksdag: the Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Green Party.
The Riksdag is housed in Riksdagshuset which is situated on Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm, right next to the royal castle. It was built between 1897 and 1905 to house both the Riksdag and the Bank of Sweden. It did house them both until 1971, when the bicameral system was replaced by the unicameral. Then, the Bank of Sweden moved out permanently and the Riksdag was temporarily moved to Kulturhuset while the building was rebuilt to fit the new Riksdag. The Riksdag moved back in 1983 when the construction works were done. The chamber, in which the current Riksdag holds its meetings is situated in the part of the building that used to hold the Bank of Sweden.
The way in which the members of the Riksdag are elected is much different from how they are elected in the UK and the US1. One of the most important differences is that there is more than one seat to be won in each constituency. 310 of the seats are divided among the 29 constituencies according to their population. The largest constituency is Stockholms Län with 38 seats and the smallest is Gotlands Län with 2 seats. The remaining 39 seats are divided among the consistencies after all votes have been counted in order to make the distribution of the seats as accurate as possible.
After all votes have been counted, the first thing that happens is that the election results are summarised on a national level. After this, all parties who have received less than four percent of the total number of votes are ignored in all subsequent calculations. This is to prevent small parties from entering the Riksdag and complicating its work. The only exception to this rule is in case a party has received more than twelve percent of the votes in a constituency, in which case the party will be included in the calculations for that constituency. There are similar systems in use in other countries, such as Denmark (2%) and Germany (5%), as well.
Then, the seats in each constituency are distributed according to a somewhat complicated system. The system is known as jämkade uddatalsmetoden and has been in use since 1954. First, a comparative figure is calculated for each party by dividing the number of voters for the party in the constituency by 1.4. Then, the first seat in the constituency is given to the party with the highest comparative figure. Then, that party's comparative figure is divided by 3. When the next seat is distributed, the comparative figure is divided by 5, the next time by 7 and so on until all of the constituency's seats have been distributed.
The Social Democratic Party have received 1,200 of the votes and the Moderate Party have received 1,000 of the votes in a constituency. (The number of votes for the other parties are assumed to be negligible in this example.) By dividing the number of votes for both parties with 1.4 we get the parties' comparative figures; 857.14 for the Social Democrats and 714.29 for the Moderates.
As the Social Democrats have the higher comparative number they receive the first seat. Their comparative figure is then divided by 3 and becomes 285.71. As the Moderates now have the highest comparative figure, they receive the next seat. Their comparative figure is then divided by 5 and becomes 142.86. This continues until all the seats in the constituency have been distributed, with the number the comparative figure is divided by increasing by 2 each time.
When the first 310 seats have been distributed, the number of seats each party has got is compared to the number of seats each party would get if the entire country was one big constituency with 349 seats. The difference between how many seats a party has got so far and the number of seats it would get if the country was one constituency is the number of extra seats the party gets. After the seats have been distributed among the parties, they are distributed among the constituencies in which the party has the highest comparative figure.
1The only two countries whose political systems I know enough about to make comparisons to.