Sweden, situated in Northern Europe, is a Scandinavian Nordic country that borders Norway to the west/north as well as Finland to the east – it is also connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel. Sweden is the third-largest country within the European Union, covering an area of 173,860 square miles with a population of 10.2 million – there are just 57 inhabitants per square mile. The capital (and most densely-populated) city in the country is Stockholm.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliament-based democracy – like her neighbour Norway, it has a monarch as her head of state.
Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995 once the Cold War had ended, but opted not to join NATO or the Eurozone. The country is a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Sweden has the world's eleventh-highest per capita income and ranks highly in terms of quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, prosperity and human development.
How is government structured?
The Constitution of Sweden is governed by four fundamental laws: the Instrument of Government, the Act of Succession, the Freedom of the Press Act, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression.
The Swedish public sector is split between the legal person (the State) and local authorities, as well as regional County Councils and local Municipalities. Local authorities make up the bulk of the public sector and are self-governed with their own tax bases, but are still dependant on the State as their jurisdiction is determined by the Local Government Act.
There are 21 County Administrative Boards in the Swedish Government, each of which is responsible for regional state administration. Each board is overseen by a County Governor, who take up their role for six years at a time.
The Swedish Parliament is known as the Riksdag, from which legislative authority issues. There are 349 members seated in the Riksdag, with general elections held every four years – members are thus elected for four-years terms by proportional representation. Swedish legislation is initiated by either the Government or the Riksdag, but only the latter can alter the fundamental laws through an absolute majority across two separate votes.
The Swedish Government operates out of Rosenbad in central Stockholm. It is made up of the Prime Minister (appointed/dismissed at the discretion of the Riksdag Speaker) and a number of cabinet ministers (appointed/dismissed by the Prime Minister. The Government is entirely responsible to the Riksdag for all of its actions.
The Armed Forces, Enforcement Authority, National Library, Swedish police and Tax Agency all report directly to the Government. Swedish cabinet ministers have no individual ministerial responsibility for the performance of the agencies they oversee (and cannot interfere in them) as the heads of the agencies report straight to the Government.
Who’s in charge?
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, though the role of King or Queen is largely ceremonial and representative, with limited political functionality. Currently,King Carl XVI Gustaf is the head of state. The monarch is responsible for opening the annual Riksdag session. He also chairs the Special Council, holds regular councils with the Prime Minister and Government, and chairs the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. In addition, the monarch is responsible for undertaking state visits and receiving visitors from other countries.
The Executive is composed of the Prime Minister and 22 Ministers, each of whom are appointed by the Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister is Stefan Löfven. The Swedish Prime Minister role wields more power than that of the Danish or Norwegian prime ministers. The Government can be removed through a motion of no confidence by the Riksdag provided there are at least 175 votes.
The Judicial Branch
As with many other European countries, the Judiciary is entirely independent from the Riksdag, the Government, and other State administrations.
The Swedish courts are split into two sectors: the general courts (criminal and civil cases), and general administrative courts (private disputes).
The Supreme Court of Sweden is the highest authority in all civil and criminal cases in the country. It is composed of 16 Justices who are appointed by the Government, though the Government cannot interfere in proceedings.