The Swedish parliamentary elections, 2018 has resulted in a deadlock:

  • The centre-left Red-Green block, outgoing minority government, has 144 seats (was: 159).
  • The centre-right Alliance block, outgoing opposition, has 143 seats (was: 141).
  • The populist far right Sweden Democrats party has 62 seats (was: 49).

The Alliance and Red-Green both claim to refuse any formal or informal cooperation with the Sweden Democrats.

The Alliance parties are claiming that the Red-Green government has lost its mandate, that the prime minister must resign, and that they want to form the next government.

With less votes than the outgoing minority government and a refusal to cooperate with the Sweden Democrats, based on what situation does The Alliance claim that they can seek a mandate to form a government?


1 Answer 1


A "mandate" is generally not officially defined, and not in Sweden either as far as I can tell. That is why parties can claim it without being directly refuted - a mandate is simply a subjective term. An approximate interpretation is a "large number of voters, sufficient to rule".

This is contextually different from "majority", which is typically well-defined by electoral law. And since that term is well-defined, the use of "mandate" here means specifically "not a majority". The Red-Green block did not have a majority, the Alliance does not have a majority.

Going back to the "mandate", we see that the approximate interpretation worked: the Red-Green block was able to rule, so by that standard they did hold a mandate. And the Alliance now claims they have a mandate, because they want to rule. But it's a subjective term. The Red-Green Block, being the largest, can make the same claim that they have the mandate.

It's clear that both sides indeed have a large number of votes - they're both significantly bigger than the SD (more than double). But the difference between the two is negligible. So a reasonable objective observation may well be that neither party has a mandate. There's no fundamental reason why a multi-party system should end up with a clear winner.

It's up to each country to decide how this is resolved. New elections are a realistic option.

  • 1
    Nice answer. And as for the possible reasons for making the claim: A) show optimism to your supporters and voters. B) claim to be in a position of strength when negotiating a government deal ("I have the mandate so I get to be PM, you will get some concessions") and C) to blame the other party for not bowing to your "mandate" in case that negotiations break and new elections are called. Of course, all of them dependent of the public agreeing with your "mandate"; luckily for an unexplainable coincidence those who believe you are usually your voters and sympatizers.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 10, 2018 at 20:35

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