Swedish anti-immigration party suffers image blow

STOCKHOLM Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:52am EST

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - An increasingly popular Swedish anti-immigration party suffered a blow on Wednesday when a senior official resigned after a film showed him using offensive language about immigrants.

The Sweden Democrats party, which has carefully moved away from association with hardline skinhead movements, won 6 percent of votes in an election in 2010 and this week reached a record 11 percent support in an opinion poll.

But a film clip published by newspaper Expressen on its website showed senior SD member Erik Almqvist using words like "blatte" and "babbe", which are offensive and are used to describe immigrants from Africa, Turkey and the Middle East in a derogatory manner.

SD party leader Jimme Akesson, the kingpin in making the party politically acceptable to voters, said Almqvist had left his top party posts and had been asked to consider leaving his seat in parliament.

"This is not a good day. It could be the worst day in my life, politically and personally," Akesson told a news conference. Almqvist's remarks were made in mid-2010, but the film has only now been made public.

Akesson told party members recently that the SD was a democratic, socially conservative, nationalist party, which had "zero tolerance" for "extremists" and racists.

Analysts have said the SD's rise has been helped by concerns over rising immigration at a time when thousands of workers are being made redundant as Sweden feels the impact of the euro zone economic crisis.

Nordic populist parties have shown resilience to criticism which came their way after the mass killings last year by Norwegian anti-Islamist Anders Behring Breivik.

(Reporting by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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