Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Sweden (SAP). The SAP is the most electorally successful centre-left party in world history. It is one of the most successful political parties anywhere in the world. In Europe, only Ireland’s Fianna Fail can claim to have governed more frequently.
A behemoth of a party, the party dominated Swedish politics for almost a century. Emerging from the Swedish labour movement in the late 19th century, the party’s traditional base is composed of working class voters and public sector workers. It is strongest in the small towns and cities which make up the heart of Sweden’s industrial base.
The party has seen its support gradually fall since the late 1960s. The last two general elections both saw the party hit record lows, with the 2010 election of score representing its worst election result since 1914. It only came 5 seats ahead of the Moderates.
This decline is due to long-term demographic changes in Sweden, the decline of trade unionism and the working class.
The party also increasingly finds it difficult to keep its vast electoral coalition together, with feminist, ethnic minority, environmentalist and working class support bases holding conflicting priorities and policy preferences.
The party has always been a very moderate and pragmatic force, but moved even closer to the centre in the 1990s, cutting taxes and the welfare bill in power.
The party tried to expand its base in the 2010 election by formally aligning itself with the Left Party and the Green Party and promising to go into coalition after the election in the case that they won. Yet the Left Party’s communist origins, and the Green Party’s environmentalism served to turn off the SAP’s working class base. Worse yet, the Green Party, who had supposed to be appealing to moderate members of the Alliance’s base, instead simply took younger voters from the SAP.
The 2010 election was followed by a change of leader, but the party’s new leader was quickly embroiled in an expenses scandal. The party’s subsequent leader, Stefan Lofven, a former welder and trade union leader, has sought to reorientate the Social Democrats back towards the centre, by talking tough on issues such as welfare.
The party is currently polling in the lower 30s, way below any previous level it has gotten into power on, but as the Left Party and Green Party are polling well it still looks set to re-enter power in September. The party typically wins less support in European than national elections, however.
The party is pro-European and previously backed introducing the Euro into Sweden.
The SAP is a member of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament. Swedish political parties are not particularly loyal to their European Parliamentary party groups, and the SAP is no different, voting alongside its group only 85.7% of the time, the second lowest in the group.