Swedish Social Democratic Party

Published 20th June, 2014

The Swedish Social Democratic Party or SAP was founded on 23rd April 1889. The party describes itself as Centre-left and believes in Social democracy and Democratic socialism.

The oldest party in Sweden the Social Democrats sent their first member to the Riksdag in 1896. That member, Hjalmar Branting, was to become Prime Minister of Sweden on three occasions from March 1920, when the Social Democrats won their first election, and January 1925.

Apart from a brief period in 1936 the party was in office from 1932 until 1976. It formed coalition governments with the Centre Party (C) from 1936 – 1939 and again from 1951 – 1957. It also formed a four party coalition government during World War Two and at other times worked as a minority government with the support, periodically, of other parties. But throughout this period it remained the largest party in the Riksdag.

This long period in office created the most complete model of social democracy in the world. This means social welfare provision paid for from progressive taxation, a social corporatist economy and the institutionalisation of a social partnership system between capital and labour.

Despite winning 152 of the 350 seats in the Riksdag in 1976 three centre-right opposition parties were able to form a coalition government. They also formed a similar government after the 1979 general election, keeping the Social Democrats out of power.

But in 1982 the Social Democrats won once more with 166 seats and formed a minority government. Tragedy struck on 28th February 1986 when Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated as he walked home from the cinema with his wife. Deputy Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson assumed the duties of Prime Minister and was to remain in the post until 1991 when they were ousted.

Their period out of office was only brief this time and in 1994 they returned to office until 2006 when they had one of their worst ever results, being reduced to 130 seats in the 349 Riksdag.

Then they suffered even more disaster in 2010 when they managed 112 seats and were just five seats away from losing their coveted ‘largest party’ tag. This result may, in part, have been down to a decision to form a Red-Greens electoral coalition with the Greens and the Left Party. The Red-Green alliance was dissolved, soon after the September general election, on 26th November 2010.

The Swedish Social Democratic Party is a member of the Progressive Alliance and Socialist International. It is also a member of the Party of European Socialists and in the European Parliament where it has five of the 20 national seats it sits with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats bloc. The party is also a member of the Joint Committee of the Nordic Social Democratic Labour Movement (SAMAK).

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