Sweden Democrat leader breaks sick leave silence

Sweden Democrat leader breaks sick leave silence
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson: Photo: TT
The leader of the Sweden Democrats - who has been on sick leave since last year - has broken his silence on rumours that there is an ongoing power struggle within the nationalist group.
Sweden's Expressen newspaper has published parts of an email written by Jimmie Åkesson in which he said that he has full confidence in current acting party leader Mattias Karlsson.
He added that he and Karlsson had "worked closely together for over 15 years" and said that any suggestions about rivalry between them had been "completely plucked out of the air."
His message comes after three months of silence from the party leader, who took sick leave soon after Sweden's national elections in September 2014 due to burnout. His period of sick leave officially ends on January 31st, 2015.
Åkesson's anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are the third largest party in the Swedish parliament after scoring almost 13 percent of the vote in the autumn poll.
"People are welcoming hearing from him again," Henrik Vinge, a spokesperson for the Sweden Democrats told the Local on Monday.
"Despite being away for three months now, he is showing signs of caring for the party and in this recent letter, he explains how he wants things to be done."
Rumours about conflict over the party's secretary Björn Söder have also been swirling in the Swedish media. He is set to step aside from his role, with Åkesson reportedly targeting Richard Jomshof, another member of parliament, to take over. 
"It's always been Åkesson's opinion that there should be a change in this position," the party spokesperson told The Local, denying that Söder's reputation for making controversial comments had anything to do with speeding up any takeover process.
Most recently Söder questioned how "peaceful" Islam is, following the Paris terror shootings.
"Björn announced he was going to resign some time ago," said Vinge. "The question has only been when it's going to occur. Because of different circumstances, notably the election and Jimmy's absence, that change has been postponed several times. But the idea has been discussed for over a year now." 
Meanwhile, the date of Jimmie Åkesson's return remains uncertain.
"We don't know if he's actually coming back on February 1st or if his return will be delayed again," Vinge said. "We are still waiting for that information."
Vinge added that that topic could also figure on the agenda when the party holds a key meeting on January 26th. 
"We may have more information then."