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The Swedish Constitution consists of four separate documents:
the Instrument of Government passed in 1974, the Act of Succession
dating from 1810, the Freedom of the Press Act of 1949, and the
Freedom of Expression Act of 1991. In addition, there is a Parliament
Act of 1974, which occupies a position midway between constitutional
and ordinary statute law.
The Instrument of Government is the most important
constitutional document. It went into effect in 1975, when it replaced
the 1809 Instrument of Government. The new Constitution brought
about no radical changes in the prevailing system of government. The
reform largely involved a formal incorporation of current practices into
the written Constitution. Thus, the new Constitution is consistently
based on the principles of popular sovereignty, representative
democracy, and parliamentarism. A Parliament elected by the people
occupies the pre-eminent position among the branches of
government; it is the foundation for the democratic exercise of power
through the Cabinet.
The reforming of the Constitution did not end with the enactment
of the new Instrument of Government. In 1976 and 1979, Parliament
passed laws amending the Constitution. The aim of both amendments
was to strengthen the constitutional protection of the human rights and
fundamental freedoms. The new Freedom of Expression Act protects
freedom of expression on the radio and television, in films, videos and
sound recordings, etc., and is based on the same principles as the
Freedom of the Press Act. Thus, for example, the ban on censorship
and freedom of establishment now applies to the entire field of modern
mass media. Only when it comes to the use of radio broadcasting
frequencies might the principle of freedom of establishment not apply
as it does for the freedom of the press. Further, films and videos for
public screening may also be subject to preliminary scrutiny.
In 1994 the Instrument of Government was amended in order to
make it possible for Sweden to join the European Union. The
agreement on Sweden's entry into the EU was ratified by Parliament in
December that year.
The King of Sweden—since September 1973 Carl XVI Gustaf—
exerts no political power and takes no part in politics. He represents
the nation. According to the Constitution he is the Head of State. In
this capacity he performs only ceremonial duties and functions as the
official representative of Sweden. One of these official duties is to
open the annual session of Parliament in September. He does not
take part in the deliberations of the Cabinet, nor does he have to sign
any Government decisions. His earlier role in selecting a new Prime
Minister has been taken over by the Speaker of Parliament.
In 1979, the Act of Succession was amended in order to give
males and females equal rights to the throne. As from 1980, this right
belongs to the first-born, regardless of gender.
Political power rests with the Cabinet and the party or
parties it represents. There are 22 ministers (11 men and 11 women)
in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister has at his side a Deputy Prime
Minister and 13 Heads of Ministry. The latter are the ministers of 1.
justice, 2. foreign affairs, 3. defense, 4. health and social affairs, 5.
transport and communications, 6. finance, 7. education and science,
8. agriculture, 9. labor, 10. culture, 11. industry and trade, 12. the
interior, and 13. the environment. The present Cabinet also includes
seven ministers without portfolio.
At times, independent experts are called upon to serve on the
Cabinet. As a rule, however, the ministers are representatives of the
political party or parties in power. In many cases they are members of
Parliament, retaining their seats in Parliament while serving on the
Cabinet. A substitute takes over the parliamentary duties of any MP
who has been appointed to the Cabinet, and this continues as long as
the MP remains in the Cabinet. In other words, a Cabinet minister has
to give up his right to vote in Parliament. All ministers are, however,
entitled to take part in parliamentary debates.
According to the Constitution, the formal power of governmental
decision rests with the Cabinet, not the monarch. If the Cabinet has
resigned, the Speaker of Parliament is required to confer with the
leaders of the parliamentary parties and with the Deputy Speakers
before proposing a new Prime Minister. Parliament then votes on this
proposal. If an absolute majority votes against the proposal, it is
considered to have failed. Otherwise it is considered approved. The
Speaker thereupon appoints the Prime Minister, who in turn appoints
all other Cabinet ministers. If the Prime Minister so requests, the
Speaker can discharge him. The same applies if Parliament declares
that the Prime Minister does not enjoy its confidence. Other
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Political terminology, Constitutional law, British Prime Ministers Office, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prime minister, Cabinet, Parliamentary system, Separation of powers, Prime Minister of Denmark, Parliament of Singapore, Government of Ukraine, Cabinet of the Netherlands
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