"No one who has lived in Sweden will be forced to return to their home country, we have no policy for that," Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson has explained in Svenska Dagbladet's children's edition SvD Junior, when asked whether it was fair to believe that asylum immigrants should return home when they no longer need shelter in Sweden.
In another divisive issue, the 39-year-old leader of Sweden's largest right-wing party was asked why he doesn't believe that "two people of the same gender" should be adopting kids.
"In fact, we really do believe this now. We didn't believe it before, but we have become a big party today, and a lot of people have come from all parts of society," Åkesson explained, while stressing that the party may soon re-write its program to include support for LGBT adoptions.
Previously, the Swedish Democrats (SD) were in favor of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that a child is entitled to both a mother and a father, even with regard to adoption and insemination. Åkesson stressed that he personally has "developed his values" from being skeptical of gay adoption to welcoming.
Many perceived this change of policy as a step back from Sweden Democrats' core values. The Swedish news outlet Samhällsnytt, which is popular among right-wing voters and SD supporters in particular, directed sharp criticism against Åkesson's "U-turn."
"The SD leader's response indicates a sharp turnaround within the party, from values and social conservatism to left liberalism, for which they previously slammed other parties. This includes immigration policy, where Åkesson now clarifies that SD will accept all previous waves of immigration and won't force anyone — except for criminals — to return to their home countries," Mats Dagerlind of Samhällsnytt wrote.
Dagerlind also noted a "diminishing resistance to the EU" from the Sweden Democrats, who have recently switched to a less EU-critical group in the European Parliament.
"SD is also not a guarantor for the nuclear family, because they have changed — or are in the process of changing — their footing in matters of same sex adoptions. These questions constitute a burden for the party that has other issues at heart. This may be worth thinking of for us conservative voters," Lucas Berggren of the Världen Idag news outlet wrote.
The Alternative for Sweden (AfS), a new party founded by maverick Sweden Democrats who believe their mother party wasn't radical enough, slammed the SD for "once again betraying their voters" by making a U-turn on deportations and LGBT adoption. The AfS, which has yet to may its way into parliament, bets on deporting as many as 500,000 immigrants, "not counting those leaving the country voluntarily."
Både @samhallsnytt och @friatider rapporterar idag om @sdriks utspel där man på nytt sviker sina väljare genom en kovändning om återvandring och homoadoption.— Alternativ för Sverige (@AfS_riks) 15 июля 2018 г.
Sverige behöver ett nytt alternativ som utmanar etablissemanget!#AfS2018 #SD2018 #val2018https://t.co/LRifeqyc5j
"Has Jimmie Åkesson become afraid of becoming prime minister? He is now doing precisely everything to reduce the number of SD followers/voters. Why this swing right now before the election? What do the SD really want: immigration or expulsion?" a user tweeted.
In a recent survey by pollster Novus on behalf of national broadcaster SVT, the SD became Sweden's second-largest party with 21.9 percent of the vote, only 2 percent away from the ruling party the Social Democrats, who suffered a major drop to 23.8 percent.