Anti-Zionist mayor wins re-election easily

By Nathalie Rothschild, September 28, 2010
Protesters demonstrate against the right-wing Sweden Democrats, who gained seats for the first time

Protesters demonstrate against the right-wing Sweden Democrats, who gained seats for the first time

Malmo mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who has been accused of indifference to a sharp rise in antisemitic attacks in his city, easily won re-election last week.

Some believe that the Social Democrat mayor was so popular he played a key role in allowing the left to cling to power in Sweden's third largest city. The red-green coalition, made up of the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party, secured a narrow win.

In the rest of the country, the Social Democrats achieved their worst results ever in the Swedish general elections on September 19. But in multicultural areas of Malmö, such as the district of Rosengård, which has 22,000 residents from 111 countries - a large proportion Muslim - the Social Democrats had better results than anywhere else.

Members of the 700-strong Jewish community are concerned about the so-called "Ilmar effect". They are disappointed with Mr Reepalu's response to the surge in antisemitic hate crimes, ranging from verbal threats to desecration of a Jewish cemetery and arson at a shul. Most attacks are believed to have been committed by Muslims, who make up an estimated fifth of Malmö's population of nearly 300,000.

Earlier this year, when asked what he made of the situation of Malmö's Jews, Mr Reepalu said it was an understandable consequence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. He suggested that the community should openly oppose Israel's actions in Gaza.

Indifferent: Mayor Reepalu

Indifferent: Mayor Reepalu

Fredrik Sieradzki, a spokesperson for the community in Malmö, said: "We hope, despite everything, that the incoming administration will be willing and able to tackle the problem of antisemitism."

So what is behind the Social Democrats' popularity in areas like Rosengård?

"They canvassed heavily there and I think many look up to Reepalu for being a vocal critic of Israel," said Mr Sieradzki, "but I really don't want to speculate. A dialogue forum with representatives from different minorities and local authorities was set up earlier this year. We hope politicians will take the issues discussed there seriously."

Last updated: 1:08pm, September 28 2010