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Swedish press: scandal shows 'true face' of Sweden Democrats

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Swedish press: scandal shows 'true face' of Sweden Democrats
14:47 CET+01:00
Amid a still unfolding scandal for the Sweden Democrats, where three prominent party members are seen on film harassing drunks, doling out racist slurs, and disrespecting women, Swedish editorial writers agree that the party has lost its painstakingly crafted non-racist front once and for all.

The film clip, recorded in 2010 and published this week by the Expressen newspaper, shows prominent Sweden Democrat members Kent Ekeroth, Erik Almqvist and Christian Westling scuffling with a drunken man, shouting at a woman, and then arming themselves with iron bars.

The independently liberal broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN) calls the film a “depiction of the true face of the Sweden Democrats”.

The editorial writers question the statement made by party head Jimmie Åkesson that he was unaware of the existence of the film and of its content.

“As the fight and the documentation of the incident already has been subject to crisis management it is rather unlikely that no one else in the party leadership knew of Almqvist’s actions," the paper wrote.

“Such a revelation would be Åkesson’s nightmare scenario; it would rock the Sweden Democrats to their core.”

According to DN, the massive support shown for Almqvist by fellow party members on his Facebook page only goes to show that there is widespread acceptance of this kind of behaviour, despite the party leadership's lofty promises of a zero-tolerance policy for racism.

The independently Social Democrat tabloid Aftonbladet argues that the future of the Sweden Democrats now rests on how Åkesson handles the situation and whether he manages to convince Sweden that he knew nothing of Almqvist’s and Ekeroth’s escapades.

“If it turns out that Jimmie Åkesson knew – and covered up – the attack on Kungsgatan, he ought to accompany Ekeroth,” Aftonbladet wrote.

The consequences for Åkesson and the party could potentially be disastrous, argues the paper.

Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), Sweden’s independently liberal-conservative broadsheet, questioned why society was surprised over the latest scandal rocking the Sweden Democrats.

“These kinds of incidents are as old as the party itself,” SvD wrote.

“Despite party head Jimmie Åkesson’s big clean-out of the more shady elements and despite the zero-tolerance policy against racism that Åkesson announced last month, one racist party member after another has been exposed. This last time within the very inner core of the party.”

However, the paper said that the party may see out this latest scandal and come out of it almost untarnished if Åkesson manages to distance the party from these prominent but now disgraced figureheads.

This being said, SvD argues, the party's future is far from safe, as there is a big difference between getting in and staying in the Riksdag.

The independently liberal tabloid Expressen wrote that there are two layers to the Sweden Democrats and that the inner and the outer layer are completely different parties.

“Within the party there is a broad understanding that the anti-racism is a front meant for the rest of the world. That’s why serious racist expletives cause very little consternation. Lies that are for the good of the party are good lies; that’s why they respect that Almqvist lied,” the paper wrote.

Indeed, leaders of the party's youth wing, the SDU, slammed Åkesson in an opinion article published in DN on Thursday, arguing he was wrong to oust Almqvist.

"To impulsively take away the responsibilities of a prominent representative of the party isn't taking responsibility, it's succumbing to a witch hunt by the media," SDU chair Gustav Kasselstrand and vice chair William Hahne wrote.

Expressen argues further that Åkesson has sacrificed his “crown prince” to keep up appearances but that he will suffer the consequences from within the party:

“Many will find the play to the galleries has gone too far when one of the most important politicians was forced away for expressing opinions that not too long ago were seen as uncontroversial within the party.”

The paper questions how Åkesson will be able to keep up his zero-tolerance policy without leaving the majority of party members by the wayside.

“The front has once and for all cracked and the Sweden Democrat’s inherent brutality is plain for all to see.”

Rebecca Martin

Follow Rebecca on Twitter here.

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