Björn Söder
Sweden Democrat party secretary, Björn Söder, speaks to the press in Västerås: Photo: Per Groth/TT.

Top Sweden Democrat: Löfven talks “pure nonsense”

Sweden Democrat party secretary, Björn Söder, hits back at the prime minister, who called the party “Neo-fascist” in an op-ed published Saturday.

Both Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson have in the past two days referred to the Sweden Democrats as ”Neo-fascists”.

Asked what he made of their remarks, Sweden Democrat party secretary Björn Söder told news agency TT: “People are used to us being the target of such strange accusations. It shows a whole other side to the Social Democrats that perhaps not that many have seen before. It shows that they are desperate.”

In a Saturday op-ed for newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Löfven claimed that the Sweden Democrats do not stand up for equality and that they do not respect democratic institutions. Söder called the accusation “pure nonsense”.

Söder spoke to reporters at a weekend conference in the town of Västerås, where regional and local Sweden Democrat politicians have gathered for the largest meeting in the history of the party.

Around 850 people are taking part in the event, which comes just months after the September general election in which the Sweden Democrats doubled their municipal seats, securing 1,324 posts in Sweden’s municipal councils. The party also doubled its regional council posts.

Participants in the weekend conference will adapt new political programmes for the municipal and regional council levels, but national politics is expected to be high on the agenda, too, after the Sweden Democrats caused a government crisis earlier in the week by blocking the Social Democrat-Green Party coalition’s budget in favour of that of the centre-right opposition.

Among the speakers over weekend are Söder and acting party leader Mattias Karlsson. Söder introduced his speech by paying respect to party leader Jimme Åkesson, who is on sick leave after suffering from exhaustion.

“Jimme will come back, stronger and more psyched than ever,” Söder said. He got rapturous applauds when he mentioned the fact that the party had blocked the government’s budget, TT reported, telling the crowd that a new election brings risks but also opportunities and insisting that the party is prepared, both financially and politically, for a new election.

The latest opinion polls from Yougov published by Metro on Saturday put support for the Sweden Democrats at 17.7 percent. They got 12.8 in the September election, thereby becoming Sweden’s third largest party. The Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power in parliament after both the centre-left and centre-right blocs failed to secure majority support.

On Tuesday, the Sweden Democrats vowed to vote down any government that chooses to promote increased immigration or that gives the Green Party any influence over Swedish migration policy. Söder said on Saturday that the party still stands by that statement, made before Löfven announced that there will be new elections in March.

“We have said that we will scuttle any budget that allows for expanded immigration and that supports going from one extreme migration policy to an even more extreme one," Söder said, adding: "We take responsibility for Sweden. What the others are doing – further increasing immigration rates – is irresponsible and will lead to the collapse of the Swedish welfare system.”

Much of the party programme was known before the weekend conference. For instance, in an effort to stem immigration, the Sweden Democrats want to try to ensure that municipalities do not sign asylum-seeker reception agreements with the Swedish Migration Board.

Another proposal is to block construction permissions for mosques and other buildings that have “symbolic value of religious or other character” and that significantly diverge from Swedish or western architectural styles. The Sweden Democrats also oppose allowing Muslim prayer calls and they want to criminalise begging in public places. In an effort to reduce crime, the party wants to install more surveillance cameras on buses and trains and to introduce more security patrols in districts with high crime rates.

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