The national level - the Riksdag and Government
At national level the Swedish people are represented by the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) which has legislative powers. Proposals for new laws are presented by the Government which also implements decisions taken by the Riksdag. The Government is assisted in its work by the Government Offices, comprising a number of ministries, and some 400 central government agencies and public administrations.
The Riksdag is Sweden's legislative assembly and is made up of 349 members who are elected every four years in general elections. The election results determine how the 349 seats or mandates are distributed among the political parties. To enter the Riksdag a party must have won at least four per cent of all votes in the parliamentary election or at least 12 per cent of the votes in a constituency.
Swedish citizens who are or have been resident in the country and have reached the age of 18 before or on election day are entitled to stand for election to the Riksdag. To be elected, candidates must represent a political party. Party members appoint the members of their own party they consider suitable to represent the party in the Riksdag.
Functions of the Riksdag
The main functions of the Riksdag are to enact laws, determine national finances and supervise the Government. The Speaker leads the work of the Riksdag.
A proposal for a law presented by a member of the Riksdag or a party is called a private members motion. A proposal presented by the Government is called a government bill. Before the Riksdag votes on a proposed law, the matter is prepared in one of the Riksdag committees. The committees are working groups with responsibility for different areas of policy in which all the parties in the Riksdag are represented. The Committee on Finance and the Committee on the Labour Market are examples of these committees.
Another central task of the Riksdag is to determine national expenditure and revenue. This is carried out on the basis of two government bills released every year in April and September.
The Riksdag also exercises control over the Government and the public administration. This is called the supervisory power of the Riksdag. The rules for this control are embodied in one of the constitutional laws the Instrument of Government. The Riksdag has five instruments for this purpose:
- Scrutinisation of the Government by the Committee on the Constitution
- Declaration of no confidence in a cabinet minister
- Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO)
- National Audit
- Members interpellations and questions to Ministers
Decisions by vote
Decisions are taken in the Riksdag by vote. A majority of the members of the Riksdag must vote for a proposal for it to be approved. All sessions of the chamber are public. The general public can follow debates from the public gallery. Voting results are also public so it is possible to see how each member has voted.
The Swedish Government governs the nation and is the driving force in the process by which our laws are changed. The party or bloc of parties that wins most votes in an election to the Riksdag forms a Government. The newly elected Riksdag chooses a Prime Minister (Head of Government) who in his/her turn appoints the other members of the Government (Ministers). The Government is accountable to the Riksdag and must have the support of the Riksdag in order to carry through its policies.
In its work of governing Sweden, that is to say implementing the decisions of the Riksdag and taking initiatives for new laws or law amendments, the Government is assisted by the Government Offices, comprising a number of ministries (read more about these in How the Government and Government Offices Function), and by some 400 central government agencies and state-owned companies.
Central government agencies and state-owned companies
There are around 400 central government agencies and state-owned companies in Sweden accountable to the Government and for which the various ministries act as principal. The primary function of these bodies is to implement the decisions taken by the Riksdag and Government. The government agencies are autonomous. This means they operate on their own responsibility but in accordance with guidelines drawn up by the Government in what are known as appropriation directions.
Examples of central government agencies are the National Board of Health and Welfare, the National Social Insurance Board and the National Labour Market Board. Posten AB and Sveriges Radio AB (Swedish Broadcasting Corporation) are examples of state-owned companies.