Sweden Democrats MP quits after racist scandal

A Swedish lawmaker once seen as a future leader of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party announced Sunday he was quitting parliament and the party after a racist scandal.

Erik Almqvist, 31, was one of three party officials caught on film hurling racist abuse at two men, arming themselves with iron bars after a heated argument outside a fast-food restaurant, and calling a woman who tried to intervene a little “whore”.

“No, this is not your country, it’s my country,” Almqvist is seen telling one of the men in the clip.

Almqvist, who had been the party’s economic affairs spokesman, stepped down from that position in mid-November when the Expressen newspaper published excerpts of the two-year-old video clip, filmed by the party’s justice spokesman Kent Ekeroth on his cell phone.

On Sunday Almqvist said he was leaving the party immediately and would resign from his seat in parliament once it reconvened after the Christmas break. He will be replaced in parliament by Anna Hagwall, 59, the Sweden Democrats said.

“This has been an incredibly difficult and weighty decision for me. I realise that my behaviour that night two-and-a-half years ago has hurt both the party and me as a politician,” Almqvist said in a statement on Sunday. “I have decided, after consultation with the party, to resign from both parliament and the party,” he said.

Ekeroth meanwhile announced after the film clip emerged in November that he was taking a temporary break from his position as justice spokesman, but he remains a member of parliament.

Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Aakesson recently announced a purge of racist and “extremist” elements in the party.

Recent polls have suggested that the party has been unharmed by the scandal, with its support hovering around 10 percent. The party entered Sweden’s parliament in 2010 after winning 5.7 percent of the vote.

AFP, 30 December 2012

Update:  See “‘You won’t get rid of me’: Almqvist”, The Local, 31 December 2012