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Scandal reveals signs of Sweden Democrat rift

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Scandal reveals signs of Sweden Democrat rift
17:12 CET+01:00
Sweden Democrat MP Kent Ekeroth said he is "ashamed" of how he behaved in a racist video clip published this week, while party leader Jimmie Åkesson called the situation "really bad".

"I'm not proud of what happened. It's something I'm ashamed of," Ekeroth told the TT news agency after announcing he was taking a "time out" from politics following the publication of a video showing him wielding an iron pipe after getting into a scuffle with a drunken man.

The clip, the latest in a series of video sequences published this week by the Expressen newspaper and stemming from a 2010 confrontation which also involved fellow Sweden Democrats Erik Almqvist and Christian Westling.

In the clip, Ekeroth can also be seen shoving a young woman who reacted to Ekeroth's filming of the incident, which took place in the early hours of the morning after a night of heavy drinking by the three Sweden Democrats.

Ekeroth said he picked up the iron pipe in self defence, arguing he felt threatened by the drunken man.

"I only held it for a few seconds and then I dropped it," he told TT.

Ekeroth, who had served as the party's justice policy spokesperson, said he had no plans to do anything specific with the pipe and explained that he pushed the woman because she tried to take his mobile phone.

He admitted, however, that his behaviour was unfit for a member of the Riksdag.

"When I see it after the fact, I understand that it looks really bad," he said.

Åkesson agreed that "it looks extremely bad" to have the party's justice policy spokesperson walking around the streets of Stockholm wielding an iron pipe.

"A political representative shouldn't get in situations where such disturbances, taunts, and fights can occur," he told TT.

The Sweden Democrat leader also admitted that his recent efforts to clean up the far-right party's image of being a bunch of "angry young men" have been complicated by the racist video clip scandal.

H added he was still mulling whether to allow Ekeroth and Almqvist to maintain their seats in the Riksdag.

Almqvist stepped down as the party's economic policy spokesman on Wednesday, after clips from the same film showed him shouting racist abuse and calling a woman who tried to intervene a "whore."

Signs also emerged on Thursday of a possible split within the Social Democrats' ranks, with some elements of the party criticizing Åkesson's handling of the situation.

Leaders of the party's youth wing, SDU, penned an opinion article published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper in which the urged the party's rank and file to show their support for Almqvist, arguing that removing him from the Riksdag would be "succumbing to a witch hunt by the media".

"We stand up for our friends in good times and bad, we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater; we don't let the media drive wedges between best friends," wrote SDU chair Gustav Kasselstrand and vice chair William Hahne.

However, several local Sweden Democrat leaders supported Åkesson's efforts to discipline the MPs for how they behaved in the film.

"They deserve their punishment; the behaviour is terrible and reprehensible and the party leadership has simply followed our policies," Johan Nissinen, party chair in Jönköping in south central Sweden told TT.

Robert Stenkvist, Sweden Democrat chair for Stockholms County, praised Åkesson's handling of the crisis.

"He did such a good job yesterday in a very difficult situation," said Stenkvist.

TT/The Local/dl

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