Centre-right parties split over nationalists racism debate

Centre-right parties split over nationalists racism debate
Christian Democrats leader Ebba Busch Thor. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
One of Sweden's opposition leaders has caused a stir after she said that she did not think far right nationalist party Sweden Democrats were racist.

In an interview with Christian newspaper Dagen published in the early hours of Thursday, Christian Democrats leader Ebba Busch Thor was asked if she considers the Sweden Democrats to be a racist party.

“No, I don’t if we’re talking about their official policy today, but the party has a history which came from racist origins,” she replied.

Busch Thor’s opinion contrasted the one previously expressed by Moderate leader and fellow Alliance boss Anna Kinberg Batra only four days earlier.

When asked in an interview with public service broadcaster SVT last Sunday whether SD were a racist party, Kinberg Batra replied “they blame all problems on immigration, that’s racist”.

The opposing answers suggested a difference in opinion towards SD within the centre-right Alliance parties, an expert said.

“Anna Kinberg Batra put her foot down quickly and said that SD are a racist party, but Ebba Busch Thor is giving a bit to both groups within her Christian Democrats,” University of Gothenburg political science professor Jonas Hinnfors told news agency TT

“She said that SD is not a racist party, but also underlined the party’s history and that there are people in the party who are racist. That may be a way for her to balance a complicated internal situation,” he added.

A third Alliance leader, Centre Party chief Annie Lööf, has also expressed her opinion on the matter.

“SD is a party with racist roots and with a view of humanity that is far away from mine and the Centre Party’s,” she wrote on Twitter.

When asked later on Thursday about her original comments later, Busch Thor appeared to backtrack.

“I meant that if you look strictly at their programme you can’t say that it is a racist party. But I think it is clear that they are still unable to come to terms with a widespread racism in the party which both characterizes their history as well as characterizes their party as a whole today, and many of their representatives,” she told DN.

It hasn’t been an easy month for Busch Thor. An August 2016 opinion poll conducted by Inizio suggested that only 3.8 percent of Swedes would vote for the Christian Democrats if a general election was held today – one percentage point down compared to the previous edition of the survey from June. 

A Novus poll published on Thursday meanwhile projected that an even lower percentage of voters (3.2) would vote for the party.