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Sahlin and Åkesson clash in first Riksdag duel

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Sahlin and Åkesson clash in first Riksdag duel
Mona Sahlin, Social Democrat Björn von Sydow and Jimmie Åkesson in the Riksdag
11:56 CET+01:00
Social Democratic leader Mona Sahlin and the Sweden Democrats' Jimmie Åkesson traded barbs on the floor of the Riksdag on Wednesday in the first party leader debate since Sweden's September 19th general election.

Sahlin charged that it is a big loss for democracy that a party with racist roots has a place in Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag.

Her attacks on the Sweden Democrats came as she opened the first debate between party leaders in the Riksdag since the country's September 19th general elections.

In his debut at the Riksdag's platform, Åkesson retorted, "Mona Sahlin alleges that my party has racist roots, but it was not my party that initiated eugenics research."

Between 1935 and 1975, a period of nearly uninterrupted rule by the Social Democrats, Sweden sterilized a total of 63,000 people, mostly women, as part of a programme based on eugenics research with the aim of weeding out "inferiors" to create a stronger Swedish race.

Åkesson added that Sahlin should clean up the debate instead, but that did not deter her attacks.

"The Sweden Democrats are an un-Swedish phenomenon and should remain so. The Sweden Democrats are a party sprung out of the white power and racist movements," she continued.

She also argued that the Sweden Democrats are a simple-minded party with a single agenda: to pit group against group and attack immigration.

Sahlin also pointed out that the country is now led by a minority government that needs to seek support in the Riksdag.

"We are prepared to work with the government when it benefits the country. However, we will offer strong opposition when the government's policies are heading in the wrong direction. One such issue is decent health insurance, another is jobs," she said.

Other parties continued with the attacks against Åkesson.

Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund wondered why the Sweden Democrats are against government efforts to create entry-level job for immigrants, under which the state would provide a large part of the employer's contribution.

The Sweden Democrats called the proposal "discrimination against Swedes."

"There are no jobs and they do not seem to create enough jobs either," said Åkesson, arguing that the major issue is immigration.

"The single most important integration policy measure is to stop the influx of newly unemployed, then we can begin to integrate in a sensible way," he added.

However, Björklund could not understand the Sweden Democrats' reasoning.

"The result of your policy will increase unemployment among immigrants and it is incomprehensible, unless you think that increased unemployment benefits your policy," he said.

Sweden would be a poorer country without diversity and the multitude of impressions that have influenced Sweden throughout the years, said Green Party spokesman Peter Eriksson, who accused the Sweden Democrats of attacking free and open society with their policies.

"The Swedish culture is good when it is open and accepting, not when the maypole and folk costumes become a straitjacket that shrinks with every wash in the Sweden Democrats' laundry room," he said.

Åkesson countered that the Green Party is an extremist party with regard to immigration issues and wondered if the party intends to use blackmail against the government, which it has for a number of years, to get amnesty for refugees.

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