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FALQs: The Role of the Speaker in the Swedish Parliament

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Picture of Swedish Speaker of Parliament Andreas Norlen holding a gavel in the Swedish Parliament.
Talman Andreas Norlen. Photo by Anders Löwdin/Sveriges riksdag. Used under the Swedish Riksdag’s rules for press photos.

On September 26, 2022, the Swedish Parliament elected the speaker of the Parliament. This post addresses the powers and duties associated with the speaker’s position. It is part of our Frequently Asked Legal Questions (FALQs) series.

1. What is the position of the speaker of the Parliament?

The speaker of Parliament (talman in Swedish) is the second highest public official in Sweden after the Head of StateKing Carl XVI Gustaf. However, similar to the head of state, the speaker’s powers and duties are mostly ceremonial as explained below. The speaker serves as head of state when the king is not available. (5 ch. 7 § The Swedish Constitution (Instrument of Government)(RF).)

2. Who can serve as Speaker?

As provided for in chapter 4 section 2 of the Instrument of Government, the Swedish Parliament elects the speaker from among the elected members of parliament after the national election to Parliament. By law, the speaker must be a Swedish citizen and at least eighteen years old. (5 ch. 1 § RF.) Unlike the monarch, there is no requirement that the speaker be a member of the Swedish church (subscribe to the “pure evangelical faith”). (4 § Act of Succession.)

3. What is the nomination process?

Parliament must nominate and elect one speaker and three vice speakers, meaning a total of four persons must be elected to serve on the speaker team. (4 ch. 2 § RF.)

However, neither the Constitution nor the the Parliament Act specifies who should become speaker. Nominations for the position are made by the political parties of the parliament. (3 ch. 4 § Riksdag Act.)

Historically, the position of the speaker was given to the largest party in the now nine party parliament. By custom the first vice post is then provided to the second largest party, and the second vice position to the third largest party, and the third vice position to the fourth largest party.

However, this practice has been deviated from in recent years, allowing for a member from the largest coalition block of parties in parliament to serve as speaker. Moreover, the custom surrounding the vice speaker position has changed as a result of the populist party the Swedish Democrats (SD) becoming the largest party in parliament. In 2014, the party received the second vice position in a drawn-out process where no other party supported their nominee. In 2018, the custom was therefore abandoned and parliament voted in favor of an opposing nominee. Even though custom would have entitled SD to the second vice speaker post. In the 2022 election, the Swedish Democrats surpassed the Moderates (M) in number of seats and became the second largest party in parliament and the largest party of the majority coalition. Again, even though SD would have been entitled to the position of speaker, they did not receive support. However, through negotiations among its coalition block parties, the SD party received support the second vice speaker post instead of the speaker position, contrary to previous custom.

4. How is the speaker elected?

As mentioned above, the Swedish Parliament elects the speaker and vice speakers from among its members. This is done at the first meeting of parliament after a national election to the Riksdag. The process is further regulated in the Riksdags Act. (3 kap. 4 § Riksdagsordningen (Riksdag Act).)

The election is conducted either by acclamation if there only is one nominated candidate, or by secret ballot if there are two or more nominees. If there are at two least nominations then the election is carried out by closed ballot, with each member of parliament offering his or her vote. To be elected, the nominee must receive a minimum of half of the votes. If no person receives more than half of the votes in the first round, a second round is carried out under the same rules. If a majority is still not obtained, a third round is carried out in which the person who receives the most votes is elected.

5. What is the term of the speaker?

The speaker sits for the duration of the mandate period, i.e. until the next national election to parliament which takes place every four years. (3 ch. 3 § Riksdag Act.) Note that extraordinary elections may take place following a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in the government during a mandate period or following failure to form a government after an ordinary election. (3 ch. 11 § RF.)  In such cases, a speaker will need to be elected anew following the results of the extraordinary elections.

6. What does the speaker do?

The role of the speaker is regulated in the Constitution and the Riksdag Act. The work is largely apolitical, meaning the speaker does not act on his or her party affiliation while in office. The primary duty of the speaker is to lead the work in parliament, including presiding over each meeting of the parliament. (4 ch. 2 § Riksdag Act.) Additionally, the speaker serves as the chairperson of the Riksdagsstyrelse (a 10 person board that directs the work of the parliament). (4 ch. 4 § Riksdag Act.)

Another important role of the speaker is presiding over the election of the Prime Minister. (6 ch. 4 §  RF.) In 2018, it took 134 days for the divided parliament to elect a prime minister that a majority of the parliament did not vote against. During the 2018 to 2022 mandate period, there were a total of four separate votes for the role of Prime Minister, following votes of no-confidence and resignations. The first woman prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, was elected on November 24, 2021, only to resign her post later that day when the Greens left the government after the government was forced to govern using the opposition budget. Magdalena Andersson was re-elected as prime minister on November 29, 2021.

7. Have women served as the speaker?

The first woman to serve as speaker was Ingegerd Troedsson from the Moderate Party  (M) who served as a speaker from 1991 to 1994 (the parliamentary term was then three years). The second and most recent woman to serve was Birgitta Dahl from the Social Democrats (S) who served from 1994 to 2002. During the 2018-2022 parliamentary mandate period, all three vice speakers were women: Åsa Lindestam (S), Lotta Johnsson Fornarve (Left Party (V)), and Kerstin Lundgren (Center Party (C)).

8. How is the speaker compensated?

The Riksdag Act provides that the speaker has the same monthly salary as the Swedish Prime Minister ( 3 ch. 1 § Lag om ersättning till riksdagens ledamöter (2016:1108)), currently SEK 184,000 (about US$16,700)/month. The vice speakers receive their basic salary as members of parliament (currently SEK 71,000 about US$6,500 ) and an additional 30% for a total salary of SEK 92,300/month (about US$8,400).

9. Who are the current speaker and vice speakers of the Parliament?

On September 26, 2022, the Speaker Andreas Norlén (nominated by the Moderates with support of the Christian Democrats (KD), Liberals (L) and Swedish Democrats (SD)) was elected using the acclamation method. There was no other nominee from the other parties of parliament. This will be Norlén’s second term as speaker. He has enjoyed wide-spread support from Parliament and the public at large, especially for the work that he carried out during the 2018 and 2021 government formation processes. He became a household name following the long government formation process of 2018 (134 days) where he invited all party leaders for one-on-one Swedish fika sessions with pastries from the Riksdag cafeteria, and one party leader brought home-made cinnamon buns. Norlén was elected Jurist of the year in 2019.

The current first vice speaker Kenneth Forslund (nominated by the Social Democrats) was also elected using the acclamation method without an opposing nominee.

The second vice speaker position, however, received two nominations, one from the majority coalition (M, KD, L, and SD) and one from the Green Party (MP) (smallest party among the opposition block). Therefore, the vote had to proceed by the use of secret ballot.  In the first round, the majority nominee only received 173 of the 348 given votes, indicating that one of the 349 members of parliament had not voted. The MP-nominee got 49 votes (receiving support from at least 31 members from other parties). An additional 126 votes were blank. In the second round, 347 members voted, with 174 in favor of Julia Kronlind (SD), 47 in favor of Janine Alm Ericsson (MP), and 126 blank votes. Thus, a majority (174 to 173) voted in favor of Julia Kronlid (SD), and she was elected.

The third vice speaker post also saw two nominees, one from the Center Party and one from the Left Party. The Center Party and the Left Party have the same number of seats in parliament, effectively tying them for the position that regularly goes to the fourth largest party. While the Center Party and Left Party have the same number of seats in Parliament, the Left party received 0.04 % more of the popular vote (6,75% to 6,71%), technically making them the fourth largest party in the 2022 election. However, in the end, the Center Party nominee Kerstin Lundgren was successful in the third round and was elected as the third vice speaker.

Since 1971, only members of the Social Democrats (six persons over 30 years) and the Moderates (three persons over 15 years) have served as speaker.


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