There is no hierarchical relation between municipalities, counties and regions, since all have their own self-governing local authorities with responsibility for different activities.
The only exception is Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, where the municipality also has the responsibilities and tasks normally associated with a county council.
The current Local Government Act, which came into force in 1992, defines the roles of municipalities, county councils and regions as follows:
- Municipalities are responsible for matters relating to the inhabitants of the municipality and their immediate environment.
- The main task of the county councils and regions is healthcare.
- The Swedish Parliament, or Riksdag, which has 349 members, is the supreme political decision-making body in Sweden.
The figure shows the three democratic levels and the tasks that the different actors have.
General elections every four years
In Sweden, general elections are held every four years. Parliamentary, municipal and county/ regional elections are held on the same day as the general election.
In these elections, Swedes vote for political parties to represent them in the three political assemblies: the municipal assembly, the county council or regional assembly and the national parliament (the Riksdag).
To be entitled to vote in the municipal and county council/regional elections, voters must be at least 18 years of age and a resident of the municipality and county concerned.
Swedish citizenship is not required in order to vote in local and county/regional elections, but voters must either be citizens of another EU member state or Nordic country and registered in Sweden at the time of the election, or have been registered as a resident in Sweden for the last three years.
The Election 2010
M, Moderaterna: the Moderate Party
KD, Kristdemokraterna: the Christian Democrats
FP, Folkpartiet: the Liberal Party
C, Centerpartiet: the Center Party
S, Socialdemokraterna: the Social Democratic Party
V, Vänsterpartiet: the Left Party
MP, Miljöpartiet: the Green Party
Assemblies and executive committees
Municipal and county council/regional assemblies are the highest decision-making bodies at the local and regional levels. All assembly meetings are open to the public. Between assembly meetings, matters are managed by the executive committee.
People who are entitled to vote may also stand for election, provided that they are nominated by a political party. Most of those holding elected office at local and regional level are not full-time politicians. They carry out their political work alongside their ordinary jobs.
Seven major political parties
It is common in Sweden to talk about a non-socialist bloc and a socialist bloc. The non-socialist bloc is made up of the Centre Party (C), the Liberal Party (FP), the Moderate Party (M) and the Christian Democrats (KD). The socialist bloc consists of the Social Democrats (S) and the Left Party (V). The Green Party (MP) is often considered as being part of the socialist bloc, but in some areas the party holds the balance of power and chooses the bloc it wishes to support on each particular issue.
There is a long tradition of consensus at local and regional levels, and it is common for parties to co-operate and form majorities across party political boundaries. The number of small local parties, sometimes single-issue parties, has also increased in recent years.
After the 2006 election, twelve years of Social Democratic government ended when the four Alliance parties - the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, the Centre Party, and Christian Democrats - formed a government.
The Prime Minister is the Moderate's Party Leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt.