Sweden is an old, rich, First World nation with a constitutional monarchy, like ours. They are famous for their Volvo and Saab marques and have had large investments for many years in Malaysia such as Eriksson in Shah Alam.
Sweden’s population is just 10 million, out of which about six percent are Muslim. They have 14 mosques there. The Swedish parliament is called the Riksdag. Clearly, appointing the prime minister is the first task facing any parliament.
So, after a general election in Sweden, how is the prime minister appointed?
You might think that, like ours, their PM would be appointed by the Swedish king, as the elected Rikstag member who, in the king’s judgement, is likely to enjoy the confidence of the majority of the Rikstag.
No. They do have a constitutional monarchy, just like ours, but they don’t do it our way.
What? No appointment by the King, you ask?
How on earth can it work?
This is how. Read on.
After every election, the Riksdag elects a speaker. Only the speaker is entitled to submit proposals concerning the post of prime minister. The Speaker then summons the leaders of all parties in the Riksdag and the deputy speakers for consultation. The number and scope of these discussions can vary depending on how complicated the political situation is.
It is the task of the speaker to propose a new prime minister as soon as possible who can appoint the other government ministers. The speaker presents a proposal for a new prime minister, which the Riksdag then votes on. The proposal is tabled without debate. The Riksdag then proceeds to vote on the proposal in the chamber.
It is possible to see how each member has voted. An explicit majority for the speaker’s proposal is not required. Instead, the rule is that if more than half the total number of members have voted against the proposal, the proposal is rejected. Otherwise, it is approved.
In this manner, the Swedish parliament itself gets to choose a new prime minister without any interference from anyone who is not an elected member of parliament.
The change of government takes place at a special meeting known as a Council of State, with the head of state, the king, presiding as chair. The speaker is present at this meeting and gives an account of the proposal and the decision of the Riksdag. The king then verifies the fact that a change of government has taken place.
Notice that the Swedish king does not have any role at all in “making a judgement” or “appointing”. The Swedish per capita GDP at US$53,000 is the 10th highest in the world. So this way of choosing their PM from the elected members of parliament has had absolutely no effect at all on their prosperity. (Malaysia’s per-capita GDP is US$11,500 while Singapore’s is even higher than Sweden at US$55,200)
Know more about Sweden’s modern and non-feudalistic procedure of effecting a change of government here.
I think we are at a critical juncture in our history. Time and again, the appointment of chief ministers, menteri besar and PMs has been problematic. The remedy, surely, is an appropriate constitutional amendment that will need a two-thirds majority.
This proposed reform – on the process by which the PM in Parliament and the menteri besar or chief minister in the respective state assemblies gets to be chosen through the mediation of the speaker of Parliament or the speakers in the respective assemblies – will be of much wider appeal to our multiracial population.
That means MPs and assembypersons will have to take note of the will of the people and vote accordingly.
There have been about 600 changes to our Federal Constitution since 1957 according to noted law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi. The constitution was crafted by six foreign jurists, then adopted by the 1957 Legislative Assembly which was the precursor to our Parliament.