History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2018-04-29

The History of the Swedish Riksdag

The Riksdag of the Four Estates (Ståndsriksdagen)

The parliamentary meeting of 1435 in the city of Arboga is considered to be the first “modern“ parliament meeting in Sweden. At that meeting the nobility was represented as their own Estate or class of citizen. However, the two meetings in the city of Västerås in 1527 and 1544, under the rule of King Gustav Vasa, were the first parliamentary meetings with representation from four Estates. The term “Riksdag” was not used until the 1540’s as a term for parliamentary meetings. In the Riksdag of the Estates the Riksdag had four “houses”, each with its own representation of the population. The four Estates (De fyra stånden) were: The Nobility (Adeln) The Clergy (Prästerna) The Burghers (Borgarna) The Peasants (Bönderna) In the Riksdag of the four Estates each estate or “House” held their deliberations in separate chambers, had their own speakers, kept minutes of their meetings but conferred with each other from time to time. A resolution required the assent of three estates in order to pass (the majority principle).

The Nobility

The Nobles met in the House of the Nobility. The Nobility was represented by the heads of families and on certain occasions those present could number a thousand.

The Clergy

The Estate of the Clergy consisted of 50 members. This House was represented by the bishops plus the clergy appointed from every diocese.

The Burghers

The Estate of the Burghers consisted of 80 – 90 members. The Burghers represented 101 towns in Sweden and Finland. Stockholm appointed 10 members, Gothenburg 3 and smaller towns 1 or 2. Often various towns combined to appoint a single representative. Burghers were craftsmen, tradesmen etc. in the towns and cities.

The Peasants

The Estate of the Peasants consisted of about 150 members. For the Estate of the Peasants (farmers) every rural district known as a härad” elected one member. Only peasant proprietors (“skattebönder”) and crown tenants (“kronobönder”) were eligible. The nobility’s peasants (“frälsebönder”) were ineligible as were the large tenantless social groups of the countryside. Much of the power lay with the committees. The most important of these was the Secret Committee which dealt with foreign policy, defense and national finances. Members from the Estate of the Peasants were ineligible for membership of this committee. During the 18th century a system with political parties was formed. A parliamentary system was formed which in large measure remains intact today. The traditions of the work in the Riksdag, especially the committees, goes back to this period of time. The two parties at that time were called “Hattar” (The Hats) and “Mössor” (The Caps).

The Constitution (Författning) of 1809

On June 6, 1809, Sweden enacted a new constitution (Författning). The new constitution prescribed a division of powers between the King and Parliament. At this time the Court of Laws and the authorities gained a more independent status. In 1809 Sweden also appointed the JO Office (JO = Justitieombudsman; the Ombudsman for the Swedish Parliamentary Commissioner for the Judiciary and Civil Administration).

The Bicameral Riksdag (Tvåkammar Riksdagen) - 1865

In 1865 the mediaeval Riksdag of the Estates was abolished and replaced by a Bicameral Riksdag (two Chambers). A new Parliament Act entered into force – Parliament met on an annual basis. The First Chamber (Första kammaren) was mainly represented by the upper classes. The Second Chamber (Andra kammaren) was more popular in character. Politically the Riksdag only represented 20 percent of the adult male population. Women had no right to vote. The members of the Second Chamber were directly elected by the people entitled to vote (voters) while the members of the First Chamber were indirectly elected by the members of the Swedish Landsting and by larger cities. [Landsting is the second level of political administration in Sweden.] The tension between noblemen and farmers; town and country now changed into un antagonism between the parties of the Left and of the Right. In 1876 the office of Prime Minister was established.

The First Chamber

The members of the First Chamber was elected indirect thru the County Council (Landstinget) and the Municipality Assembly (Kommun) of the larger cities. Only men could be elected.

The Second Chamber

The members of the Second Chamber was elected by General Elections. Like the First Chamber, only men could be elected. The have the right to vote you had to own a property and you had to have an annual income and pay taxes. Only 21 percent of all males above the age of 21 were qualified to vote, according to these rules.

Suffrage

In 1907 the First Chamber was undergoing a democratization process. The voting for the Second Chamber was made universal for men (but still restricted to income and capital circumstances). Women still had no right to vote according to those rules. The voting age was set to 24. However, universal suffrage for men for the Second Chamber came into effect in 1909. In 1918 the age for voting was set to 23 and both men and women now could vote for the Second Chamber and for local governments. After these reforms, 54 percent of the population was entitled to vote.

Universal Suffrage

Universal suffrage for men was enacted in Sweden in 1909. The voting age was set to 24 but restricted to men who had paid tax during the last three years and done their national military service (conscription). Universal suffrage for women was enacted on May 24, 1919. The first general election when women were able to vote was held in 1921. The voting age was now set to 23 for both men and women. Sweden had from 1921 universal suffrage for both men and women for the Second Chamber.

The Unicameral Riksdag (Enkammar Riksdagen) - 1970

In 1970 the Bicameral Riksdag was abolished and replaced by a unicameral Riksdag (Enkammarriksdagen). The period of elections was set to three years. The way in which the Standing Committees were organized was reformed, and the Expert Committee principle was introduced. The Chamber had at that time 350 Members, but in 1975 the number of Members was reduced to 349 (an odd number replaced an even number). In 1994 the mandate period was extended from three years to four years. Single-member voting was introduced in 1994 in seven constituencies. Normally you vote for a party and the members the party suggests in each constituency on the preprinted ballots. Single-member voting means that you can vote for an individual member of a party rather then the party as such. There are eight political parties represented in the Riksdag (2014).

Related Links

The Parliamentary System of Sweden Facts about Sweden The subdivisions of Sweden

Source References

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History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2018-04-29

The History of the

Swedish Riksdag

The Riksdag of the Four Estates

(Ståndsriksdagen)

The parliamentary meeting of 1435 in the city of Arboga is considered to be the first “modern parliament meeting in Sweden. At that meeting the nobility was represented as their own Estate or class of citizen. However, the two meetings in the city of Västerås in 1527 and 1544, under the rule of King Gustav Vasa, were the first parliamentary meetings with representation from four Estates. The term “Riksdag” was not used until the 1540’s as a term for parliamentary meetings. In the Riksdag of the Estates the Riksdag had four “houses”, each with its own representation of the population. The four Estates (De fyra stånden) were: The Nobility (Adeln) The Clergy (Prästerna) The Burghers (Borgarna) The Peasants (Bönderna) In the Riksdag of the four Estates each estate or “House” held their deliberations in separate chambers, had their own speakers, kept minutes of their meetings but conferred with each other from time to time. A resolution required the assent of three estates in order to pass (the majority principle).

The Nobility

The Nobles met in the House of the Nobility. The Nobility was represented by the heads of families and on certain occasions those present could number a thousand.

The Clergy

The Estate of the Clergy consisted of 50 members. This House was represented by the bishops plus the clergy appointed from every diocese.

The Burghers

The Estate of the Burghers consisted of 80 – 90 members. The Burghers represented 101 towns in Sweden and Finland. Stockholm appointed 10 members, Gothenburg 3 and smaller towns 1 or 2. Often various towns combined to appoint a single representative. Burghers were craftsmen, tradesmen etc. in the towns and cities.

The Peasants

The Estate of the Peasants consisted of about 150 members. For the Estate of the Peasants (farmers) every rural district known as a “härad” elected one member. Only peasant proprietors (“skattebönder”) and crown tenants (“kronobönder”) were eligible. The nobility’s peasants (“frälsebönder”) were ineligible as were the large tenantless social groups of the countryside. Much of the power lay with the committees. The most important of these was the Secret Committee which dealt with foreign policy, defense and national finances. Members from the Estate of the Peasants were ineligible for membership of this committee. During the 18th century a system with political parties was formed. A parliamentary system was formed which in large measure remains intact today. The traditions of the work in the Riksdag, especially the committees, goes back to this period of time. The two parties at that time were called “Hattar” (The Hats) and “Mössor” (The Caps).

The Constitution (Författning) of

1809

On June 6, 1809, Sweden enacted a new constitution (Författning). The new constitution prescribed a division of powers between the King and Parliament. At this time the Court of Laws and the authorities gained a more independent status. In 1809 Sweden also appointed the JO Office (JO = Justitieombudsman; the Ombudsman for the Swedish Parliamentary Commissioner for the Judiciary and Civil Administration).

The Bicameral Riksdag

(Tvåkammar Riksdagen) - 1865

In 1865 the mediaeval Riksdag of the Estates was abolished and replaced by a Bicameral Riksdag (two Chambers). A new Parliament Act entered into force – Parliament met on an annual basis. The First Chamber (Första kammaren) was mainly represented by the upper classes. The Second Chamber (Andra kammaren) was more popular in character. Politically the Riksdag only represented 20 percent of the adult male population. Women had no right to vote. The members of the Second Chamber were directly elected by the people entitled to vote (voters) while the members of the First Chamber were indirectly elected by the members of the Swedish Landsting and by larger cities. [Landsting is the second level of political administration in Sweden.] The tension between noblemen and farmers; town and country now changed into un antagonism between the parties of the Left and of the Right. In 1876 the office of Prime Minister was established.

The First Chamber

The members of the First Chamber was elected indirect thru the County Council (Landstinget) and the Municipality Assembly (Kommun) of the larger cities. Only men could be elected.

The Second Chamber

The members of the Second Chamber was elected by General Elections. Like the First Chamber, only men could be elected. The have the right to vote you had to own a property and you had to have an annual income and pay taxes. Only 21 percent of all males above the age of 21 were qualified to vote, according to these rules.

Suffrage

In 1907 the First Chamber was undergoing a democratization process. The voting for the Second Chamber was made universal for men (but still restricted to income and capital circumstances). Women still had no right to vote according to those rules. The voting age was set to 24. However, universal suffrage for men for the Second Chamber came into effect in 1909. In 1918 the age for voting was set to 23 and both men and women now could vote for the Second Chamber and for local governments. After these reforms, 54 percent of the population was entitled to vote.

Universal Suffrage

Universal suffrage for men was enacted in Sweden in 1909. The voting age was set to 24 but restricted to men who had paid tax during the last three years and done their national military service (conscription). Universal suffrage for women was enacted on May 24, 1919. The first general election when women were able to vote was held in 1921. The voting age was now set to 23 for both men and women. Sweden had from 1921 universal suffrage for both men and women for the Second Chamber.

The Unicameral Riksdag

(Enkammar Riksdagen) - 1970

In 1970 the Bicameral Riksdag was abolished and replaced by a unicameral Riksdag (Enkammarriksdagen). The period of elections was set to three years. The way in which the Standing Committees were organized was reformed, and the Expert Committee principle was introduced. The Chamber had at that time 350 Members, but in 1975 the number of Members was reduced to 349 (an odd number replaced an even number). In 1994 the mandate period was extended from three years to four years. Single-member voting was introduced in 1994 in seven constituencies. Normally you vote for a party and the members the party suggests in each constituency on the preprinted ballots. Single-member voting means that you can vote for an individual member of a party rather then the party as such. There are eight political parties represented in the Riksdag (2014).

Related Links

The Parliamentary System of Sweden Facts about Sweden The subdivisions of Sweden

Source References

Wikipedia Top of page