Sweden - Political situation

General elections were held in Sweden on Sunday 9 September 2018 to elect the 349 members of the Riksdag. Regional and municipal elections were also held on the same day. The incumbent minority government, consisting of the Social Democrats and the Greens and supported by the Left Party, won 144 seats, one seat more than the four-party Alliance coalition, with the Sweden Democrats winning the remaining 62 seats. The Social Democrats' vote share fell to 28.3 per cent, its lowest level of support since 1911, although the main opposition, the Moderates, lost even more support. The Sweden Democrats made gains, though less than anticipated.


Following the elections, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven lost a vote of no-confidence on 25 September, forcing a parliamentary vote on a new government. In the meantime, his government remained in power as a caretaker government.


After several failed negotiations, Löfven was finally re-elected as prime minister on January 18, 2019. Löfven was elected Prime Minister with 115 Riksdag members voting for him and 77 members who abstained (total of 192 votes). Due to the low number of yes votes Löfven received, he has the third weakest government since the end of World War II as at the time of his election.


In the new government agreement, a 73-point long settlement between the four parties (Social Democratic Party, Green Party, Centre Party, Liberal Party), point 23 opens a door for farm sales: “An investigation into farm sales of alcoholic beverages should be carried out. A prerequisite is that Systembolaget's monopoly is secured.”


It is primarily the Center Party that has repeatedly pushed for small-scale alcohol sales directly on farms and Skåne region wants to start trials. At the same time, at least two state investigations have previously concluded that this would collide with Sweden's exemption in the EU to keep Systembolaget's monopoly for public health reasons (parallel sales on Swedish farms would be interpreted as discrimination against foreign alcohol producers).


Alcohol researchers reacted to farm sales plan by pointing out that it would threaten Systembolaget's monopoly and allowing alcohol in the grocery trade would increase sales significantly and lead to over 1400 more deaths annually.


"It appears to be both worrying and unnecessary because two previous state investigations found that farm sales are not compatible with Systembolaget's monopoly," writes scientists Sven Andréasson, professor of social medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Johanna Gripenberg, head of STAD and KI researcher, Thor Norström, professor in sociology at Stockholm University, and Mats Ramstedt, associate professor and KI researcher.


They were all co-authors of a new study "Estimating the public health impact of disbanding a government alcohol monopoly: application of new methods to the case of Sweden" that was published in December 2018 at BMC Public Health. The study concluded: "There would be substantial adverse consequences for public health and safety were Systembolaget to be privatised. We demonstrate a new combined approach for estimating the impact of alcohol policies on consumption and, using two alternative methods, alcohol-attributable harm. This approach could be readily adapted to other policies and settings. We note the limitation that some significant sources of uncertainty in the estimates of harm impacts were not modelled."


If alcohol could be sold in grocery stores, alcohol consumption would increase 31 per cent in Sweden and lead to increased health injuries and more than 1,400 more deaths per year, (including 29 per cent more alcohol-related cancer deaths). Also, health days and social costs would increase, as well by 34 per cent more abuse cases and 58 per cent more drunk driving.


The four researchers also see problems with today's approach and want rules against distance selling of alcohol from abroad to be tightened and recommend the government to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, already introduced in Ireland and Scotland, to protect vulnerable groups.


Statsminister Stefan Löfven