Sweden Democrats bring Swedish Parliament into disrepute

Political behaviour is always worth observing and fascinating though the line between high-farce and tragedy is quite thin.

The Sweden Democrats is one of the recent wave of far-right, anti-immigration, vaguely neo-nazi, political parties that have been been voted into parliaments around Europe over the last 15 years or so. (One of the characteristics of European politics has been the over-representation of marginal and extreme groups but in general – I think – countries just get the representation they deserve).

Most of these extremist parties are perceived as having roots in – or at least strong connections to – the “skinhead” and football hooligan cultures that have glorified mindless violence in Europe since the 1960’s. Since they have entered parliaments they have all had some difficulty in finding people sufficiently presentable and articulate and coherent and intelligent to be acceptable to an audience outside their own circles. Many of these parties and politicians spend much time in trying to make-over their unsavoury images from the past to appeal to a larger audience. But many of their parliamentary representatives cannot change their spots, continue with their crude behaviour and fail the test.

The leader of the Swedish Democrats, Jimmy Åkesson, passes at an individual level. He is personable and articulate and coherent though a little one-dimensional. He tends to flounder on issues which he cannot connect  – even by the most convoluted logic – to his anti-immigration position. He tries to distinguish between anti-immigration and anti-immigrant. He has declared a zero-tolerance policy against racism. He is trying very hard to appeal to the wider electorate – and with some success. But he is not matched by his comrades who took their places in the Swedish Parliament after the last election. They are proving to be less than reliable; all with highly over-inflated egos (not least cushioned by the very comfortable living afforded by being a member of parliament), clearly seduced by the trappings of power and with a firm conviction of their own importance in the global scheme of things.  But they are not having much success in getting away from their “junkies and hooligans” image.

A year ago William Petzell, an SD member of parliament and the leader of their youth wing was dismissed from the party for alcohol and drug abuse but continued drawing his financial benefits as a parliamentarian until his suicide a few months ago. Yesterday Erik Almqvist, the SD spokesman for economic affairs and a member of their executive committee was forced to give up all his party responsibilities after a video exposed by the Expressen newspaper shows him using crude, racist and anti-feminist language. Uncouth behaviour and not just unparliamentary language. But he still continues in parliament. This morning  the Expressen revealed more of the same video showing Almqvist  with two of his SD comrades – Kent Ekeroth and Christian Westling behaving like hooligans, arming themselves with iron bars and pursuing an inebriated man. They are reminiscent of the recent London rioters but what is particularly revealing is that they seem so pleased with themselves. Simple pleasures for simple minds. It has taken just a few hours for Kent Ekeroth – also a parliamentarian and – believe it or not – the party spokesman for justice policy (!) to now step aside from his party responsibilities. But he too – so far – continues as a parliamentarian. It is probably quite difficult for these simple souls to give up their basic salaries of around $9,000 per month. The third iron-bar wielding hooligan Christian Westling, is an SD parliamentary candidate but that status may not now last for long.

And now there are reports – not yet confirmed – that even the party leader knew about the existence of the video some time ago but took no action.

No doubt the Sweden Democrats successfully exploit and represent the views – however misguided – of a section of the Swedish electorate. Their parliamentary members though are not covering themselves with any glory. When parliamentarians behave like street hooligans they only succeed in bringing the Swedish Parliament into general disrepute.

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