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Sweden Democrat revelations bring back bad memories in Klippan

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Sweden Democrat revelations bring back bad memories in Klippan
People in Klippan lay roses on the site where Gerard Gbeyo was killed a year after his death in 1996. Photo: Stefan Lindblom/TT
14:20 CEST+02:00
There's no memorial in Klippan for Gerard Gbeyo, the 18-year-old African asylum seeker stabbed to death by teenage Nazis back in 1995. But everyone in the former paper mill town can tell you where it happened.
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The murder shocked Sweden, creating a stigma that the municipality in rural parts of southern region Skåne is still struggling to shake off. 
 
"We had a time when we had really big problems with the Nazis," says Johan Petersson, the municipality's Social Democrat chairman. 
 
"The Nazis bought a wooden house in the woods and built a great fence around it and held white power events. It used to be very difficult to say you were from Klippan." 
 
According to Petersson, it has taken almost two decades to shake off the bad reputation and turn around the population decline that came as a result. 
 
So when last week the Expressen newspaper and Expo magazine reported that three of the local candidates put forward by the populist Sweden Democrat party for this election had previously been active neo-Nazis, not even his Social Democrat party welcomed it. 
 
Andreas Olofsson, who is in fourth place in the party's municipality list, led the local arm of the National Socialist Front (NSF) in the mid-1990s. Thomas Jelinek, in ninth place, was the party's local 'propaganda chief', while Tobias Ekberg, in 17th place, was an ordinary NSF member. 
 
"I was young and stupid. I'm a completely different person now," Olofsson told me over the telephone on the morning Expressen published the story. 
 
The next day in Klippan, no one from the local party is picking up the phone. And when the wife of Jonas Luckmann, the party's local spokesman, finally tracks him down, he tells me the local party have been ordered not to speak to the press. 
 
According to Expressen, the Sweden Democrats have asked Olofsson and Jelinek to leave the party, and sent in a request to Skåne County Council for their candidacies to be cancelled. 
 
But the two men have told Aftonbladet that they are refusing to step down voluntarily, with Jelinek complaining that he had been completely open about his past with the local party. 
 
Olofsson is at any rate so well-known locally that the revelations are not likely to do the party much damage. 
 
"I know him and I know his family, like I know everyone in this town," says a woman behind the counter in the shoe shop, just around the corner from the cypress bushes where Gbeyo's body was found. "He's a nice guy. I don't think it will affect the Sweden Democrats." 
 
A few days previously, she adds, a local man had been on the high street in the uniform of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement handing out leaflets. 
 
"I knew him!" she exclaims. "That gave me an uncomfortable feeling. Now they are real neo-Nazis, which the Sweden Democrats certainly aren't." 
 
Petersson says that he too already knew of Olofsson's NSF background when the two met for inter-party dialogue ahead of the election. Bbut he said he has been willing to put his political opponent's past aside.  
 
"It was public knowledge," he says. "I would prefer to say 'listen and have trust in what people say'. If he says he has left all that behind him, you should believe what he says. Now he has a family and a printing business."
 
He doesn't expect the bad publicity to affect the Sweden Democrats' strong position in the town either. 
 
"I think that whatever happens, it doesn't affect SD's voters," he says. 
 
He points to the scandal in 2012, when three high-ranking party members were discovered to have armed themselves with iron pipes and told a well-known Kurdish-born comedian he behaved "like a wog".
 
"It doesn't register in their voter numbers," he concludes, shrugging his shoulders.  
 
Petersson's hope is that the Sweden Democrats grew so strongly in the municipality in the years running up to the 2014 election, that they now have little room to expand further.
 
"I think they've already become so big in Klippan that they might not do any better," he says. "There's also a new local party, Vår Framtid Klippan (Our Future Klippan), which will take some SD votes." 
 
Rather than exploit the Nazi revelations, he says he prefers to campaign on core Social Democrat issues.  
 
Johan Petersson is campaigning on traditional welfare issues. Photo: Social Democrats
 
"I don't think SD have any solutions to our problems in terms of taking care of healthcare and getting children good schools," he says. "I think there are big holes in their politics. They just say they are going to stop immigration and use the money they save to help pensioners, and I don't think that works." 
 
Attacking opposing candidates for their actions of twenty years ago, would bring back too many bad memories. 
 
"We don't want to go back to those times when we had these problems with Nazis which darkened the reputation of Klippan." 
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John - 29 Sep 2018 17:56
Why is the Swedish media so eager to make Nazi connections to the Sweden Democrats?
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