The scandal, dubbed SD-Gate by some in the press, is currently dominating the Swedish media landscape and was spawned by the publication of a video clip featuring two Sweden Democrat MPs in a drunken tirade in which they threatened a drunken man and hurled racist insults.
And some political experts believe that SD-Gate could inflict long-lasting damage on the party.
“A risk for the Sweden Democrats is that the scandal might cause an open split in the party. Some members might choose to become members of the more radical National Democratic party,” Ann-Cathrine Jungar told The Local.
Jungar is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Sciences at Södertörn University College near Stockholm who is working on a research project about populist radical right-wing parties in Europe.
Jungar’s prediction of an impending split within the Sweden Democrats is also supported by political scientist Johan Hinnefors.
“I can easily see that this could become an internal battle and that is never good if you want to attract the regular voters,” Hinnfors told the Svenska Dagbladet, (SvD) newspaper.
He believes that Åkesson’s decision to strip Erik Almqvist of his responsibilities might upset some of the party’s supporters who don’t view the 2010 video clip, featuring bad behaviour by Almqvist as well as MP Kent Ekeroth and party member Christian Westling, as a big deal.
Indeed, the decision to strip Almqvist of his title as the party’s economic policy spokesman has proven controversial within the party, with many Sweden Democrats voicing their support for him.
However, several of the party’s district leaders have expressed their dismay over how Ekeroth and Almqvist behaved in the film and support Åkesson’s handling of the situation.
At the same time, leaders of the party’s youth organization, SDU, have criticized how Almqvist has been treated by the party’s leadership.
So far, neither of the Sweden Democrat MPs in the film have been forced to give up their seats in the Riksdag.
However, if Almqvist and Ekeroth are forced to give up their seats in the Riksdag the seats will not remain empty for long.
“The potential replacements will probably have to go through a proper examination to make sure that they don’t have any skeletons in the closet,” Jungar told The Local.
She added that it is hard to predict the potential long-term effects of the scandal.
“In the short-term I think that the political support for the Swedish Democrats will drop, but it is difficult to see what the long-term effects will be. It depends on how they deal with the situation,” she said.
Johan Martinsson, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg who studies political attitudes and political behaviour, doesn’t think the scandal will affect the Sweden Democrats’ support in the long-term.
“You’ve got to remember that most scandals do not have any great effect on voters’ party sympathies. What is huge in the media might have a small effect on the voters. The effects are short-term and not as large as you might think,” Martinsson told TT.
Martinsson added that one result of the scandal is that the opposition against the party might get more strength from the scandal.
And a review of entries on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which have exploded with entries about the scandal with a subtext of “we told you so”, indicates Martinsson might be right.