Getting confusing – Sweden’s Social Democrats are not the Sweden Democrats – or are they?

In Sweden the Sweden Democrats is a  (relatively) new anti-immigrant party with neo-nazi and skinhead roots which is growing in support and has managed to win seats in Parliament. Apart from being anti-immigrant and of blaming all problems in any area on immigration their Parliamentarians have mainly distinguished themselves by regularly getting involved in scandals (old-fashioned hooliganism and drug and alcohol abuse) and subsequently resigning.

Sweden’s Social Democrats on the other hand was founded in 1889, has its roots in the labour movement and was till 2003 the dominant party of Government through the 20th century. It is the party of Tage Erlander and Olof Palme and the largest party in the country and can be credited for most of the social advances made in Sweden. For a left-leaning party they have been remarkable in being very pragmatic and supportive of private manufacturing industry. It is currently in opposition but ought – in the normal course of affairs – to return to power in the 2014 elections.

Unless they can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Right now they seem to be keen on showing the world all their dirty washing and looking for ways to lose the next election.

It is still a party where party decisions are made in back rooms (no longer smoke-filled) by the few who exert the real political power. Within the party it is old fashioned power politics which matter and there is little trace of any real democracy. Lately the twists and turns over getting rid of Mona Sahlin as leader, appointing Håkan Juholt in a coup and then replacing him after a media campaign with Stefan Löfven, indicates that the internal antagonists have been well matched with the advantage shifting between the right/left and the left/left wings of the party. (All the factions are left of centre of course but the field is wide)!

But during the last week the party has shown itself as being particularly inept and the “dirt” from the battle for power has manifested itself as seeming to be racist and anti-immigrant! They appointed an immigrant to their governing board and then the internal fight began and the unfortunate Omar Mustafa was forced to resign less than a week later. But the double whammy for the Social Democrats is that in addition to their dirty washing becoming visible they now look exactly like the party they love to hate – the covertly racist and overtly anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats!

(If I were to be very cynical it could even seem that the Social Democrats are trying to win some of the anti-immigrant vote back from the Sweden Democrats).

 The LocalEmbattled Social Democrat Omar Mustafa, who also chairs Sweden’s Islamic Association (Islamiska förbundet), resigned from all his duties with the party on Saturday night, bowing to calls from within the party that he leave the governing board.

“The party leadership believes that having a mandate within the party and within Muslim civil society is incompatible. The party leadership’s view isn’t only regrettable, it’s also a frightening signal to Muslims and other Social Democrats who are people of faith,” he wrote in an open letter. 

“I therefore feel that the party leadership doesn’t have confidence in me and have forced me to resign from all my duties in the party.”

Mustafa, 28, was chosen to sit on the governing board of the left-of-centre opposition party at last weekend’s party congress. Mustafa’s announcement came following a Saturday night crisis meeting among Social Democrats in Stockholm who had previously lobbied to have him included in the party’s governing board.

“Knowing what we know now and considering how events unfolded, the situation became unsustainable. I therefore urged him to resign,” Veronica Palm, chair of the Social Democrats in Stockholm, told TT.  Palm explained that she and her colleagues had nominated Mustafa to the Social Democrats’ governing board because he’d “done a good job” for the party in Stockholm.

The Local continues in its next article:

.. Demonstrator Malika Moor has supported the Social Democrats for 36 years, but said she wouldn’t vote for the party today.

“I don’t understand why it’s come to this. It might be because his name is Omar, because he’s an immigrant, or a Muslim. I really want the Social Democrats to explain this to us,” she told TT.

Meanwhile, 29 active Social Democrats signed an open letter published on Tuesday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper taking issue with the party’s management of the situation.

According to the authors, it’s unacceptable that someone elected at a party congress should be forced to resign due to unfounded criticism from party colleagues and media hype.

They demand the party leadership distance itself from the accusations directed toward Mustafa and express their confidence in him. The authors also want those who published the unfounded accusations to apologize.

“We state with sorrow and anger that Mustafa was forced to leave the party’s governing board,” they wrote.

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