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History of the Riksdag
The Riksdag or Sveriges Riksdag is the Parliament of Sweden. However when it was founded in 1866 Sweden did not have a parliamentary system of government. The national parliaments of Estonia and Finland are also called Riksdag in Swedish.
The Old Riksdag
Main article: Riksdag of the Estates
The precursor to the modern Riksdag was the Riksdag of the Estates or Ståndsriksdagen. Of ancient origin in the Viking Tings, the meeting of the Swedish nobility at Arboga, in 1435 is considered as the first Riksdag. This informal representation was formalized in 1527 by King Gustav I of Sweden to include representatives of all the Four Estates, which historically reflected the lines of division in Swedish society: Nobility, Clergy, Burgesses and Peasants. Under the Instrument of Government of 1809 the Riksdag shared the powers of Government with the King.
The New Riksdag
In 1866 all the Estates voted dissolve the Riksdag of the Estates and establish a new Riksdag. The new Riksdag was a political assembly with two chambers where the members were appointed in national elections. The revolution was that Citizens could participate and vote in the elections without regard to which Estate they had hitherto belonged, instead there were new requirements on income or wealth, i.e. census suffrage. Despite the fundamental change in the principles of representation the social composition of the Riksdag did not alter by much, and the system of Government had not changed. Under the Constitution of 1809 the Riksdag still divided the powers of Government with the King.
Parliament and Democracy
From the second half of the 19th century, when the Riksdag was founded, until the early 20th century Swedish society underwent a number of fundamental changes that impacted on political system. Political demands, but also sheer economic progress, increased the share of citizens eligible to vote and have a direct influence on the political system. This in turn also sponsored the emergence and growth of political parties. The Riksdag had also been able to assert itself against the Royal authority and a de facto parliamentary system had begun to emerge.
The last time the King attempted to exercise political authority was in February, 1914 when King Gustav V delivered a speech to 30,000 Peasants, assembled on the yard of the Royal Castle in Stockholm, an action which precipitated the fall the incumbent liberal cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Karl Staaff . In the face of popular unrest and gains for Liberals and Socialists in general elections 1917 the King hesitantly accepted to appoint a new Cabinet in accordance with the principles of Parliamentarism. The new government's main task was to present bills on democratization. The voting franchise had been extended to all adult males in 1907 and women's suffrage gave them the same rights in 1921. By this Sweden had established a democratic and parliamentary system of Government.
Main article: Constitution of Sweden
In the 1960s debates intensified over constitutional reform in Sweden. The fundamental question was over the system of government. Even though a de facto parliamentary system was firmly established, somewhat similar to the situation in the United Kingdom, there were demands for a more democratic constitution. One of the main issues was whether the Monarchy would survive a constitutional reform and this blocked the issue for a long time.
In 1970 a reform of the Riksdag had been agreed upon. Though not technically part of the constitution it showed that the parties in the Riksdag were able to agree upon fundamental changes of the political system. The reform transformed the Riksdag from a two-chamber assembly it into a unicameral assembly with 350 seats. Unfortunately the first general election to the unicameral Riksdag only gave the Government support from 175 members, while the opposition could mobilize an equal force of 175 members. In several cases this meant that the final outcome of a tied vote, was decided by chance. In 1974 the number of seats were reduced to 349.
Main article: Riksdag
In 1974 a new Instrument of Government was established as the vital part of the Constitution, and for the system of Government. The Monarchy had remained but the King had lost all political influence and was reduced to a mere Symbolic Chief of State. Several of the traditional Chief of State functions had instead been transferred to the Speaker of the Riksdag, who almost could be regarded as some form of equivalent to or non-titular republican president.
- Sveriges Riksdag - Official site
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