During the weekend we decided to take the possibility to visit the Swedish Riksdag. The Riksdag is the parliament of Sweden and you find it in the center of Stockholm. More precisely it stands on the island Helgeandsholmen. This Saturday they had an open day when the building was open for the public. It was time to see the interior of the building that we have seen so many times when walking by. We also had the chance to mingle with politicians and learn more about the work in the Swedish Riksdag.
The Swedish Riksdag
The Riksdag is the legislative body of Sweden. The history of the Swedish Riksdag goes back all the way to 1435 and a meeting between Nobles in the town of Arboga. The Riksdag consisted for a long time of the four estates. That is the nobility, the clergy, the burghers, and the peasants. It has since gone through many changes, one of the first major ones being the establishment of political parties in 1721. These parties were the Hats (Hattar) and the Caps (Mössor).
It was in 1809 that the new Instrument of Government was adopted in Sweden. This was one of the fundamental stones of the Swedish constitution and it described the separation of power between the king and the Riksdag. The Swedish Riksdag became the legislative power as the king continued to be the executive power. The introduction of the bicameral assembly replaced the estates as late as 1966. Elections decided the make-up of the two assemblies. The first chamber (första kammaren) or the upper house was made up of the wealthy part of the country. The male population elected the members of the second chamber (andra kammaren) or the lower house.
The 20th century came with a lot of further changes. All males gained the right to vote in 1918. In 1921 women received the right to vote as well. The bicameral system survived until 1971 when the unicameral assembly replaced it. Since then Sweden has had a proportionally elected assembly with 349 members.
The Parliament Building – Riksdagshuset
The Parliament building is in the Old Town of Stockholm. Architect Aron Johansson designed it and it was built between the years 1897 and 1905. It is Neoclassical in style, with a Baroque Revival style facade section. During the time of a bicameral assembly, the building housed both the Riksdag and the Swedish National Bank. The Bank was at that time in the second part of the building. That is the part that is shaped as a half-circle. Once the Swedish Riksdag changed from a bicameral to a unicameral assembly in 1971, the bank relocated. The new and much larger chamber moved to the semicircular building.
Attending the Open Day
Fortunately, we only had to queue for a few minutes before entering the building. Actually, the number of people surprised us. As we arrived only a few minutes before the doors opened, we thought we would have to wait in line. Security was high and everyone had to go through security scanning when entering. It was the same security checks as in airports. We found ourselves in the staircase between the two old chambers. There really is a lot of artwork in the building and the statues of a few old prime ministers greeted us. Even Susann recognized a few of the names. Luckily we saw the two old chambers almost empty, the crowds had not yet found them.
We continued across to the new assembly hall to see where our current politicians are placing their votes. The hall is quite big and a lot more modern than the two old chambers. We made sure to get a photo of Susann standing in front of the rostrum with the Swedish coat of arms. The political parties had their representatives there and visitors had the chance to have a chat with an MP.
After a short “fika” or break for some snacks, we had look at the rooms of a few committees and did especially have an interest in the gifts from other countries. It is always fun to see what countries the transport committee has been to, right? After a few hours of walking around and enjoying the architecture of this amazing building, we decided that it was time to leave. We had been able to spend a day at the center of Swedish politics. But believe it or not. no politician had tried to convince us why they should stay in the building. A nice exception and I guess that there still is some time until the next election.
In case you want to know more about the Swedish Riksdag, you can read more here >>