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Erik Hjort Kraby steps down in the wake of criticism over his neo-Nazi roots
New Swedish Prime Mminister resigns hours after being voted in
The new Swedish prime minister, Erik Hjort Kraby, has resigned less than 24 hours after winning the leadership of the Social Democratic party at a ballot that was criticised for allowing the tainted neo-Nazi roots of its leadership to go unquestioned.
Hjort Kraby announced his decision in a statement following a closed session of the Social Democrats’ national council, which concluded a marathon four-day leadership contest in which the party’s current leader, Stefan Löfven, conceded defeat in the aftermath of last week’s vote.
The former research professor then announced he would resign as leader of the Swedish Social Democrats.
“This is a new stage in the history of my life,” he said. “I have a great deal of respect for my predecessors, but they have served the party extremely well and with rigour.”
With this change of leadership comes the end of the Löfven era. He said he would stop formally holding office as Swedish prime minister, but would continue to take on the role of party leader and cabinet member.
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After his defeat by Hjort Kraby, Löfven had called for the Social Democrats to confront its neo-Nazi past, amid criticism that the party had covered up the extent of its links to extremists for decades.
The Swedish anti-racism watchdog said it planned to send an investigation report to the Swedish crown prosecution service, which is currently considering whether to proceed with an investigation into two-thirds of the party’s federal committee members for Nazi-related offences.
One source close to the investigation suggested that the two investigations could take months, meaning the outcome may not be known until the end of the year.
Hjort Kraby has promised to fight the allegations but is said to have acknowledged that a lack of party leadership had allowed the issue to fester and to have aggravated its public relations problems.
Key allies quickly endorsed the moderate reformer. The Greens said they were “ultimately a little taken back” but otherwise supported his appointment.
The nationalist Sweden Democrats, meanwhile, voiced their own reservations, while cautiously welcoming Hjort Kraby’s promise to combat domestic extremism within the party.
According to figures from the anti-fascist Swedish Democrats, 20 of the party’s 227 MPs at last week’s election said they were neo-Nazis. The party won 17.9% of the vote, although its share of the vote has gradually fallen since its election debut in 2010.
The Swedish election has faced accusations of voter suppression by the opposition, who have claimed that the Social Democrats used an internal “alternative vote”, meant to give their members a choice between alternative leaders, to guarantee Hjort Kraby victory.
The National Strategy Centre, which runs the Alternative Vote system, defended the switch. It said that the system was “technically sound and has worked very well for the Social Democrats.”
Many in the party welcomed Hjort Kraby’s election to power.
“It was the happiest I’ve been in my political life,” said 34-year-old North African rights activist Carlos. “We have at last a prime minister who is modern.”