Far-right Sweden Democrats party reassigns staff after smear scandal

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 9:02 AM

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The far-right Sweden Democrats, a party the government relies on to keep its coalition afloat, said on Thursday it would reassign staff and change tactics after a TV investigation revealed it had directed online smear campaigns ahead of EU elections.

An investigation by TV4 aired last week, featuring a report with a hidden camera, showed that the Sweden Democrats’ communications staff were involved in secret online campaigns directed at both political opponents and partners.

Party workers used anonymous social media accounts to troll and discredit rivals ahead of next month’s vote for the European Parliament, the broadcast showed.

Sweden Democrats said on Thursday that two of its communication office staff members had been reassigned to new duties and said it would tighten its social media policies.

“We are prepared to make some minor adjustments to soften the tone going forward so that we can once again focus on solving important problems in society,” the party wrote in a comment to TT news agency.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson this week condemned the use of social media troll accounts which he said were a dangerous political tactic.

Kristersson’s Moderate Party formed a government coalition with two smaller centre-right parties after the 2022 election, but failed to win enough votes for a majority. He relies on votes from the Sweden Democrats, with whom he had previously promised to never work, through a cooperation agreement.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party was formed in the late 1980s in part by activists with neo-Nazi and white supremacist ties.

Earlier this week the party had hit back at the TV4 report, saying it was a “domestic influence operation from the combined left-liberal establishment” and that it had only shared satire.

The Sweden Democrats did not immediately reply to a Reuters’ request for comment on Thursday.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Ros Russell)