Hard right leader aims for greater role in Swedish election

Aug 22, 2022, 8:25 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 8:30 am
Jimmie Akesson, who for almost two decades has sought to move the party from the far-right fringe t...

Jimmie Akesson, who for almost two decades has sought to move the party from the far-right fringe toward the mainstream, smiles during a campaign speech Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, in the southern city of Helsingborg, Sweden. The long-time leader of the nationalist Sweden Democrats says he’s hoping for a stronger role as a “blowtorch” in Swedish politics after Sept. 11 elections, even if he doesn’t get a seat in the next government. (AP Photo/Kongshaug Productions)

(AP Photo/Kongshaug Productions)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The longtime leader of the nationalist Sweden Democrats says he’s hoping for a stronger role as a “blow torch” in Swedish politics after a parliamentary election next month even if he doesn’t get a seat in the next government.

Jimmie Akesson, who for almost two decades has sought to move his party from the far-right fringe toward the mainstream, has joined forces with a center-right opposition bloc in a bid to unseat the Social Democratic minority government led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

Akesson’s party already has had a significant impact on politics in Sweden. Both the center-left government and the opposition in recent years have adopted tougher stances on crime and immigration — core issues for the Sweden Democrats.

“Fundamentally, it is a good thing. We want to change society. We want to make things better. So we welcome when other parties adopt our policies,” Akesson, 43, told The Associated Press after a campaign speech Monday in the southern city of Helsingborg.

Because of its far-right roots, Akesson’s party was treated as a pariah by all other parties when it first entered parliament in 2010. The Sweden Democrats were seen as a threat to fundamental values in Swedish society, including tolerance toward asylum-seekers from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa.

But the debate on migration has shifted amid growing concerns about how well some immigrants are integrating, increasingly segregated cities and a rise in gang violence.

After losing two consecutive elections, three of Sweden’s four center-right parties are now campaigning to form a government with the support of the Sweden Democrats after the Sept. 11 vote and making similar promises of longer prison terms for violent criminals and more restrictive policies for asylum-seekers.

Polls show the the opposition neck-and-neck with a center-left bloc led by the Social Democrats. The Sweden Democrats are polling around 18%-19%, slightly better than the party’s 2018 election result of 17.5% of the vote.

Akesson told the AP that while he would prefer to be in government, he’s not at this stage demanding Cabinet seats if the center-right opposition win the election — as long as he can wield influence from the outside as a “blow torch, a watchdog that makes sure that they actually carry through” on their promises.

His party, which says it rejects fascism and Nazism, recently published a study into the roots of the Sweden Democrats. Swedish newspaper Expressen revealed the author was a party member. Nonetheless, the investigation confirmed that several of the party’s founders in the 1980s had links to fascist and neo-Nazi movements.

Akesson said it was good to get an “academic” review of the party’s past, though he thinks the results were of limited political value since the party’s origins were already well known.

“Those who founded our party are no longer taking part,” he told the AP. “Most of them disappeared already after one or two years. So the Sweden Democrats today is something different from what was founded about 30 years ago.”

Akesson joined the Sweden Democrats in the mid-’90s and took over as party leader in 2005. He softened the party’s image, changed its official logo from a torch to a flower and expelled the most radical members.

But critics say the party’s roots shine through in the rhetoric of its top officials. Social Democratic and center-right officials criticized the party’s spokesman on criminal justice issues, Tobias Andersson, last week for a tweet regarding the Sweden Democrats’ campaign advertisement on the Stockholm subway.

Posting a picture of a train car covered in the party logo, Andersson wrote: “Welcome to the repatriation train. You have a one-way ticket. Next stop, Kabul.”

Andersson refused to apologize for the tweet, saying it was mocking those who were offended by the party’s campaign posters. Social Democratic Justice Minister Morgan Johansson responded that the tweet showed the true nature of the group that center-right parties were trying to form a government with.

Like many far-right and right-wing populist parties in Europe, the Sweden Democrats have also been accused of sympathies toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. A week before the Ukraine invasion, when asked in an interview with public broadcaster SVT which leader he preferred — U.S. President Joe Biden or Putin — Akesson replied “it depends on the context.”

Speaking Monday, Akesson said the party’s line on Putin’s government was clear.

“We said 12 years ago when we entered Parliament that we must build up the armed forces because Putin is getting more and more aggressive, and then other parties said that’s not necessary,” he said. “Today, Russia is more or less a full-scale dictatorship that in addition is carrying out crimes against international law against its neighbors.”

The Sweden Democrats used to be skeptical toward NATO membership but, like the governing Social Democrats, turned in favor of joining the alliance together with neighboring Finland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The NATO application is undergoing a ratification process and is not an issue in the election.

___ Associated Press contributor Anders Kongshaug in Copenhagen contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Washington kills 2 wolves to prevent preying on cattle

Biologists working for Washington have killed two members of the Leadpoint wolf pack this week in an effort to stop the pack from preying on cattle
18 hours ago
Associated Press

US judge dismisses Mexico lawsuit against gun manufacturers

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A U.S. federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Mexican government against U.S. gun manufacturers arguing their commercial practices has led to bloodshed in Mexico. Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston ruled Mexico’s claims did not overcome the broad protection provided to gun manufacturers by the Protection of […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Celina Washburn protests outside the Arizona Capitol to voice her dissent with an abortion r...
Associated Press

Arizona judge won’t pause ruling that stopped all abortions

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge on Friday declined to put her order that allowed enforcement of a pre-statehood law making it a crime to provide an abortion on hold, saying abortion right groups that asked her to block the order are not likely to prevail on appeal. The ruling from Pima County Superior Court […]
18 hours ago
A slag pile of mining waste is seen in Anaconda, Mont., on Dec. 15, 2016. A subsidiary of London-ba...
Associated Press

Montana site fouled by copper smelter to get final cleanup

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A subsidiary of London-based oil giant BP agreed to finish its cleanup of a 300-square mile (776-square kilometer) site in Montana that’s contaminated with arsenic and other pollutants from decades of copper smelting, and to repay the U.S. government $48 million in response costs. Under a legal decree filed Friday in […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Britney Spears supporters celebrate following a hearing concerning the pop singer's conserva...
Associated Press

After #FreeBritney, California to limit conservatorships

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a bill limiting conservatorships that grant legal guardianship over individuals, a move that comes after Britney Spears’ conservatorship case garnered national attention amid her attempts to regain control over her finances and livelihood. The new law, authored by Democratic Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, will require […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

5 slain in Texas neighborhood identified; suspect charged

McGREGOR, Texas (AP) — Officials have disclosed the identities of five people killed in a Central Texas neighborhood, as well as the suspect in the slayings. The Texas Department of Public Safety said Friday that Nicolas Jaimes-Hernandez, 35, of Mexico, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. More charges are pending. He was […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Hard right leader aims for greater role in Swedish election