Jimmie Åkesson on sick leave for exhaustion

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Jimmie Åkesson on sick leave for exhaustion
Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the nationalist Sweden Democrats. Photo: TT

UPDATED: Jimmie Åkesson, the leader of the nationalist Sweden Democrat party, has taken sick leave for exhaustion. Mattias Karlsson will take the reins in his absence.


The Sweden Democrat wrote in an open letter on Friday afternoon that he was exhausted and needed some time out of politics. 
"Now the election is over and things have settled a bit, I've noticed that things don't feel as right as they should after a success like this," the letter said, reported the Expressen newspaper. 
The party became the Sweden's third biggest after the national election in September, winning 12.9 percent of the country's votes. 

Åkesson said a doctor had diagnosed him with chronic fatigue and that he wanted to be able to keep a check on his work-life balance. 
"I also have a responsibility for myself and not least my family. Being a good dad demands a physical and emotional presence. This is important for me to keep going in the long term in this role," he added.
Åkesson is on sick leave from parliament until November 30th, although it's possible this could be extended, Expressen reports. 
Parliamentary group leader Mattias Karlsson will serve as leader until Åkesson returns.
"I will take over Jimmie's functions temporarily when it comes to heading up the party's political leadership group, which makes ongoing decisions about political standpoints, as well as things like communicative tasks," said Karlsson.
"I'll also take over what Jimmie has been doing within the framework of parliamentary work."
Jimmie Åkesson on election night. Photo: TT
In his letter, Åkesson said:

"Of course the work itself is wearing – all the travel, stress, constant homesickness – but mainly there have also been so many other things going on that have stolen energy and taken a toll physically and, not least, mentally." Åkesson also said he had been ground down by his “opponents’ constant attempts to block” the party’s successes, media’s “often despicable campaigning journalism” and “the inexhaustible hatred of extremists".

With all this in mind, he said he faced two choices:

"Either keep going as normal, with a major risk of really breaking down in the not too distant future; or I try to plumb my inner depths, clean up what’s inside, and find tools to move on."

Political scientist Jenny Madestan said she was not surprised by his decision.

"It must be very tough to be Jimmie Åkesson. This is a party that a lot of people think is an oddball in Swedish politics and no human being thinks it’s nice to be frozen out and get lots of criticism."

At the same time, Madestam described Åkesson as being "hugely important" for the party.

"He’s the one who all the time has kept up the balancing act of representing on the one hand folksiness and on the other professionalism."

He has also had the task of holding together a party with many renegade members.  

"The fact the Sweden Democrats have been successful and maintained a relatively good level of trust is largely down to Åkesson condemning various racist comments.

"He has shown resolve with his leadership," she added, staking out a unique position for the party while trying to attract voters from more established parties.

Madestam also said the recent election campaign had been the toughest yet for the Sweden Democrats.

"They were scrutinized more since they had seats in parliament."


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