Top Sweden Democrat quits after racist film
Published: 14 Nov 2012 13:23 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Nov 2012 13:23 GMT+01:00
Sweden Democrat MP Erik Almqvist will step down as the party's economic policy spokesman over racist statements he made on a film clip and his subsequent denials, party leader Jimmie Åkesson announced on Wednesday.
- Sweden Democrats in crisis over racist film (14 Nov 12)
"I've spoken with Erik Almqvist today and he's accepted leaving his position as our economic policy spokesperson as well as his place in the executive committee," Åkesson told reporters.
"I've also urged him to consider leaving his position in the Riksdag."
Åkesson called the day "the worst day in his political life", emphasizing he thought it was important the party react forcefully to the incident, which follows just weeks after the Sweden Democrat leader unveiled plans to clean up the party's image as a group of "angry young men".
The announcement comes after Swedish tabloid Expressen published a film clip from 2010 which features Almqvist, along with justice policy spokesman and MP Kent Ekeroth, as well as Christian Westling, who sits on the Stockholm city council.
In the clip, Almqvist is heard making racist comments to an inebriated man, using words like “darkie”, “cunt” and “darkie-lover” in connection with a scuffle involving the three prominent Sweden Democrats.
The episode was filmed by Ekeroth - a clip later obtained by Expressen.
Almqvist then proceeded to call a 21-year-old woman who tried to get the three men to stop harassing the drunken a man a “little whore”.
When Expressen confronted Almqvist with allegations about his statements, he denied everything.
But after Expressen published the complete footage of the incident in which Almqvist's statements can be heard clearly, the party leadership called a crisis meeting which resulted in the decision for Almqvist to step down.
"We've seen statements and behaviour which are totally unacceptable," Åkesson said of the film clip, adding that he no longer has confidence in Almqvist
Åkesson added that Ekeroth will keep his leadership positions within the party for the time being, but hinted the party may review Ekeroth's place in the Sweden Democrats in the future.
He also said that Almqvist's future as a member of the party was also in question, but that the issue would be decided later.
At his own press conference later on Wednesday, Almqvist said it was "the worst day of my life".
"I'm incredibly regretful. I'm going to take a step back," he told reporters.
While explaining that he has agreed to abandon all of his leadership posts within the party, Almqvist said he wasn't going to leave the party or give up his seat in the Riksdag.
"I am a Sweden Democrat," he proclaimed.
"I have no ambition to be a political independent."
In explaining the incident caught on film, Almqvist said he was "very drunk" at the time. He claimed he had hazy memories of the confrontation and that he has never seen the clip in its entirety.
"I wasn't doing very well at the time," he said, admitting that he had been drinking too much for months prior to the incident.
"I had a lot of anger inside me. I'd been subjected to violence and had my home trashed. I lost it in my drunken state."
He described his behaviour in the film as "stupid" and "drunkenness" and admitted that the statements he made could be described as racist, although they weren't intended to be so.
Almqvist also claimed that he "never lied" to reporters about the incident, defending his previous denials by explaining he didn't remember the incident and hadn't seen the footage.
"If I'd known of the film I would have known what was there and then I wouldn't have responded to questions about the film as I did," he told reporters.
Despite Almavist's intention to stay in the Riksdag, University of Gothenburg political scientist Johan Martinsson doubted the Sweden Democrat could remain an MP.
"If the film is right, it's going to be very hard for him to remain in the Riksdag," he told TT prior to the press conferences with Åkesson and Almqvist.
"It's enough with the line 'that little whore'. But denying it makes it even worse."