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Green Party leaders: We have no plans to resign

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Green Party leaders: We have no plans to resign
Green Party spokespersons Gustav Fridolin and Åsa Romson meet the press after the resignation of Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
11:02 CEST+02:00
The leaders of Sweden's Green Party want to lead the party out of its crisis but will step aside if party colleagues want them replaced, Åsa Romson and Gustav Fridolin told a press conference on Monday.

The party's joint spokespersons and de facto party leaders met the press on Monday morning to air their thoughts after a crisis that saw support for them plummet amid claims of creeping Islamism and a major coal sale that dealt a blow to their environmental profile. 

Romson and Fridolin said they would stay on unless the party's nominating committee found people better suited to lead the party beyond next month's congress. 

"We understand that a lot of people feel uncertain," said Fridolin, referencing a week in which the party's reputation as a bastion of feminism was rocked the core. He added that anybody was welcome to join the Green Party, "but we naturally don't have room for all values".

Their reason for calling the press conference was unknown in advance and the atmosphere was tense when they arrived at the parliament press centre. But the drama was short-lived.

Andreas Ericson from the free-market think thank Timbro captured the mood in a tweet: "Journalists came for blood and tears. They got a nominating committee."

Many commentators thought Romson and Fridolin raised as many questions as it answered. Was their tenure at the helm alive or dead? Daniel Wiklander, an editor for the left-leaning Ordfront magazine, called it "Schrödinger's resignation". 

Political scientist Katarina Barrling argued that the Green Party's emotional approach to politics had fitted the zeitgeist when their popularity soared in pre-election opinion polls. But, she continued, the zeitgeist can be a fickle friend.

It was equally disheartening to see how they had been idealized then as it was to watch them be bullied now, she said, adding: "The Green Party is the same party today as it was when you hugged them to pieces." 

The Green Party was first plunged into crisis when it emerged in mid-April that the then housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, had kept company with Turkish extremists. 

Fridolin and Romson deflected the criticism, even when a clip showed up of Kaplan comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and they continued to back the minister after he announced his resignation at a joint press conference with the prime minster, Stefan Löfven. 

They were not helped by a party veteran, Per Gahrton, who was widely derided for claiming Kaplan was the victim of an Israeli smear campaign. 

Romson then found herself in the eye of the storm when she referred to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at “accidents”. She later clarified to The Local what she had meant but for many, the damage was done. 

More trouble loomed around the corner when a rising star in the overtly feminist party, Yasri Khan, refused to shake a female journalist's hand. He resigned but commentators were left wondering what had happened to the sweet little junior partner in Sweden's government. 

When pictures showed up of Green Party members including Mehmet Kaplan making Muslim Brotherhood signs, with four fingers held aloft, the head of Sweden's National Defence College said he feared the Greens had been infiltrated by Islamists

As if all that wasn't bad enough, the party's environmental credentials also suffered a blow when Sweden's state-owned Vattenfall sold its brown coal operations, a move the Greens pushed hard to block when in opposition. 

A survey on voter support for party leaders cemented the crisis, with Fridolin and Romson rooted to the bottom
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