Path: ICPP > ICPP2000 > Table of Countries --> Sweden since 1963
SWEDEN: The Party System from 1964-2000, by Irina A. Danilkina*

Swedish politics during 1964-2000 has demonstrated an orderly development without significant changes in legislative representation. In 1970 the First Chamber was abolished and the Riksdag turned into a single-chamber parliament with 350 members later reduced to 349. The requirement of at least 4% of total vote is needed to receive parliamentary representation in the Riksdag (Mackie et al, 1991: 400).

The Social Democrats continued to win the largest percentage of votes but their support has decreased from 49% in 1964 to 38% in 2000. The Liberals, Conservatives and the Center Party, often in coalition, succeeded to gain the majority of votes in the parliament and place the Social Democrats in opposition, but the distribution of votes inside the coalition was uneven. From 1971 to 1978 the Center Party occupied the leading role in the non-socialist block gaining 26% of popular support in 1974, and from 1979 the Conservatives took leadership increasing its legislative representation to 23% in 1998. During 1964-2000 the Communist Party has significantly increased its legislative representation and gained 12% of seats in the Riksdag in 1998. New parties that were formed before and after 1964--New Democracy, the Christian Democrats, and the Ecology Party--are given attention in this research since they gained more than 1% of seats in the Riksdag in any election.

Continuity and Change in Political Parties, 1964-2000

Original Parties from 1950-64, still continuing to 2000

241 Social Democratic Party. The Swedish Social Democratic Worker's Party was formed in 1889 and continues to be the leading actor on the stage of Swedish politics. Although the Social Democrats held power alone or in coalitions since 1964, they had an absolute majority in parliament only once, and several times they even found themselves in the opposition ( Gorvin, 1989: 334). From 1964 to 1998, the Social Democrats' position gradually declined. In 1969 Sweden amended its Constitution by introducing unicameral parliament, so the next elections were held in 1971, a year earlier than usual. The Social Democrats suffered a vote lost of 5 percentage points and lost their absolute majority in parliament. Their decline in support continued till 1976 elections, when the Social Democrats were defeated for the first time since 1932 and were not included into a government. They remained in opposition for six years, losing votes to a non-socialist bloc consisting of the Center Party, Liberals, and Conservatives. In 1982 the Social Democrats gained 3% of votes 3 points more in the percentage of votes and returned to government. These elections coincided with the economic problems in Sweden relating to the rising unemployment and deficit of investment capital. The Social Democrats, who claimed that Center-Liberal coalition had no solution to the country's economic problems, proposed a plan for worker's investment funds (Gorvin, 1989: 334). The position of the Social Democrats has been declining significantly since their victory in 1968. In 1991 they won just 38% of votes and in 1998 elections they were able to gather only 36%.

242 Center Party. After the Center Party changed its name from the Farmers' Party in 1957, its legislative representation climbed to 24% of the votes in 1976. Since 1979 its position has declined, and it won just 5% in the 1998 elections. The Center Party typically contested many elections in cooperation with other non-socialist parties: the Liberals and Conservatives. In 1976 the Center Party led a coalition of non socialist parties and held the government through 1979 elections. After resignation in 1978 the support for the Center Party started to decline by dropping approximately 3 percentage points in each of the subsequent elections.

243 Liberal Party. The Liberal Party has continued to be one of Sweden's major parties, although its legislative representation has been declining steadily. In 1973 it has suffered a significant loss of votes from 17% in 1964 to 9% in 1973. In 1976 it slightly improved its position by forming a coalition with the Center Party and the Conservatives who were becoming popular. In 1976 and 1979--while the non socialist bloc held the power in the government--the position of the Liberals was stabilized, but in 1982- when the Social Democrats returned to the government--the support for the Liberals dropped to just 6% of votes. In 1978 the Liberals formed a minority government when the Conservative Party and the Center Party resigned. Again in 1985 the Libera Party improved its position largely at the expense of its two former coalition partners. But by 1998 elections the support for the Liberals dropped to 5%.

244 Conservative Party. The Conservative Party was the only one that increased its legislative representation during 1964-2000. Its support increased from 14% in 1964 to 23% in most recent elections in 1998. In 1976 the Conservatives formed the coalition with the Center Party and the Liberal Party, but in 1978 they resigned from the government.

245 Communist Party
. The Communist Party was established in 1917 as the Left Radical Socialist Party. In 1921 it was renamed as the Swedish Communist Party, only to change its name to Left Party Communists in 1967. Since 1991 it has been called the Left Party (Caramani, 2000: 866). During 1950 1960 it failed to qualify as a party under our ICPP definition, but since 1960 it has been gaining more than 5% of seats in the Riksdag. On several occasions it supported the Social Democrats, but it has never been a part of a governing coalition. The position of the Communist Party has been fluctuating between 5% and 8%, but the 1998 elections the Communists increased their legislative representation by gaining 12% of votes.

New parties forming after 1962 and continuing to 2000

246 Christian Democratic. Established in 1964 under the name of Christian Democratic Assembly, the party adopted its current name in 1987 (Caramani, 2000: 866). Support for the Christian Democrats has fluctuated between 2% and 4%, and only in 1985 did the Christian Democrats enjoy parliamentary representation, due to an election pact signed with the Center Party in September 1984 (Gorvin, 1989: 334).

247 Ecology Party. Established in 1981, it has not been very successful except in 1988, when all major parties lost seats to the Ecology Party due to the strong emphasis on the environmental issues during 1988 election. It gained 6% of popular votes.

248 New Democracy. New Democracy was established in 1990 as an anti-tax party. In 1991 elections it won 7% of the popular vote, but its position declined significantly by 1998 elections, when it gained no seats in the Riksdag.


Caramani, Daniele, 2000. The Societies of Europe: Elections in Western Europe since 1815, Electoral Results by Constituencies. ( New York, Grove's Dictionaries, Inc., 2000).

Gorvin, Ian, (ed.) 1989. Elections since 1945: a Worldwide Reference Compendium. ( Chicago, Ill., USA: St. James Press, 1989).

Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998. ( New York, Scribner).

Mackie, Thomas T. and Rose, Richard, 1991. The International Almanac of Electoral History. (Washington D.C., Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1991).

*Participant in Northwestern University's Summer Camp for Political Party Research, June-August, 2000