Sparks fly in first Left- Sweden Democrat duel

Left Party leader Lars Ohly and his Sweden Democrat counterpart Jimmie Åkesson sparred over immigration and other issues in their first debate on Thursday,

Sparks fly in first Left- Sweden Democrat duel
Jimmie Åkesson; Lars Ohly

The two party leaders, who have rarely had kinds words for one another, didn’t sit in the same room for the debate, but were linked via satellite by Sveriges Radio (SR) for the Thursday afternoon session, which began with Ohly calling the Sweden Democrats a “racist party” which “is pulling society apart”.

“One must be able to criticize certain cultures and cultural expressions without it being called racist,” countered Åkesson.

Refugee and immigration issued dominated the discussion. And neither party leader was able to find much common ground with the other’s views.

“You want to stop people from being reunited with the people they love. That’s among the most offensive things I can imagine,” said Ohly.

Åkesson replied that there was nothing dictating that such reunifications had to occur in Sweden, pointing out the high costs of doing so.

“There’s no special tree with money growing on it to pay for everything that is nice, pleasant, and deserving,” he said.

The Left Party leader has earlier refused to debate Åkesson. When both were scheduled to appear on Sveriges Television (SVT) on election night, Ohly refused to sit in the same make-up room with the leader of the Sweden Democrats, something Åkesson referred to as “childish”.

“I’ve had debated with many other party leaders. Lars Ohly has taken things to the extreme and won’t even say hi to me or shake my hand when we meet,” said Åkesson, drawing a heated response from Ohly.

“I obviously greet everyone in the Riksdag, you want to make yourself out to be a martyr,” the Left Party leader replied.

Despite the sharp exchanges, both leaders admitted that their parties could end up voting the same way on certain issues, like Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan.

“It’s almost never going to happen, but when it comes to Afghanistan, sure. But we’re never going to look to the Sweden Democrats, but rather will put forward what we think is right,” said Ohly.

Ohly also rebuffed the notion that the Left and the Sweden Democrats could defeat the Alliance by working together.

“That’s the fault of the government, it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that their proposals get through,” said Ohly.

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