I had the great pleasure of sponsoring a Nordic Horzons event in the Parliament this week that was chaired by Lesley Riddoch and where Kristina Lemon from the Swedish Elections Authority gave a very informative and interesting presentation about how they do voting and elections in Sweden
The recent UK General Election where we vote on a First Past the Post voting system had a ‘high’ turnout of 66% and we got a majority government elected in Westminster.
The last General Election in Sweden produced no single party with a working majority – Swedes have used PR since 1909 and coalition government is normal. So is last year’s turnout of 85.8% – higher even than Scotland’s record breaking referendum. The turnout for the last council elections was 38% in Scotland but 82% in Sweden.
How do the Swedes do it? Elections are on a Sunday. All elections (for municipal and county councils and general elections) take place on the same day — the second Sunday of September every four years. So it is said councils benefit from the General Election buzz and this was true here when our council elections were the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections where even though we did not reach the high turnouts of Sweden, they were still much higher than when you just have council elections on their own.
In Sweden, voters can vote 18 days before polling day, and change their vote on election-day itself. Anyone can form a party, even quite late in the process. Voters don’t have to register – the Swedish Election Authority simply extracts information from the central population register. This may be controversial here as it is an ID number but the point about being able to vote over an 18 day period is certainly interesting.
Since the GE here there have been many pieces written which are pointing out the unfairness of the first past the post system and that we have a majority government elected on a small percentage of the vote and I think we will see more discussion on this and it is great if we can draw on the experience of other countries as this debate moves forward.