'We have sent a signal to the others that it is OK to vote no'

Muted jubilation in the anti-euro camp after minister's murder boosts turn-out
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The Independent Online

There was only one party in town last night. And as the kronor cronies gently swung into the "Jailhouse Rock", their self-image seemed to grow into that of Super Swedes who had defeated Big Bad Brussels.

"We voted against the super-state," shouted a jubilant Daniel Bergvall, 23-year-old treasurer for the Young Greens. "We voted to bring democracy back to the people," chanted Left Party activist Madeleine Liinanki, 31. "We want humane targets, not economic ones," said Jenny Norberg, 22.

Earlier in the day, there had been a kind of unspoken no-celebration edict. After the murder last week of the Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, a "yes" campaigner, it hadn't seemed proper to party. But when the "no" camp's victory margin reached 15 per cent, the music just had to start at the Blue Moon bar in Kungsgatan.

"We have sent a signal to other countries that it is OK to say no to the colossus," said Vivianne Johansson, an official of the Left Party, former communists.

"We have sent a message to Swedish politicians that the establishment and big business can't tell us what to do. We are a small country but there are 185 other countries that have not adopted the euro and they are absolutely fine," she said.

Lena Wallin, a 54-year-old nurse, was one of many women voters who remained unconvinced by Ms Lindh's campaign for the euro and took her scepticism into the polling booth at Högalid School in southern Stockhom."Her murder did not change my mind," said Ms Wallin. "The outcome of the referendum does not really matter. The 'yes' side says joining the euro will give us a voice in the world. But Anna Lindh was our voice. Losing her will be much more significant for Sweden than which currency is in our pockets," she said.

After Ms Lindh, 46, was killed by an unknown knifeman, politicians suspended all campaigning for the referendum. They urged Swedes to honour the popular politician's memory by turning out to vote in large numbers.

Lotte Ivarson, 39, heeded their advice. "I would not have voted had she not been killed, but she was our prime-minister-in-waiting," said Ms Ivarson, who works as a journalist on a design magazine.

"The European Union is changing so much at the moment because of enlargement that we cannot possibly know whether the euro is a good or a bad thing for Sweden. I voted blank. It was a symbolic action on my part," Ms Ivarson said. "After the murder, it suddenly became important to turn out - to vote for democracy and not violence," she said as she handed over 5 kronor (50 cents or 30p) for a cup of coffee in the playground.

The refreshments were being served by the pupils of class 5a and 5b to raise funds for their school trip next spring.

"We do not know where we are going for the trip but I hope it is not a euro country," said Nathalie, 12. "I have been to France, which has the euro, and it is very expensive," she said with a tone of wisdom that attracted admiring glances from fellow coffee-servers, Valeria and Mimmi.

Coffee is no small matter in Sweden. The country has one of the highest per-capita coffee consumption rates in the world. In workplaces, the coffee break is an institution, which allows Swedes to break out of their reserve. Thus it was in the playground of Hogalid School yesterday afternoon.

"Everyone says a cup is going to cost 1 euro or 2 euros or whatever. I do not see anything wrong with it continuing to cost 12 kronor and 50 ore [about £1]," Ms Wallin said.

Elin Johnsson, 90, pleaded with her to be a little more forward-looking. "I voted 'yes'," she said, "because I think we should show solidarity among European countries."

The referendum seemed to have slammed a border between Ricardo Campos and his girlfriend, Monica Pehrsson. The couple, both 40, had voted differently and were sitting in silence on a bench. "We have to break down borders," said Mr Campos, a cardiologist. "I am from Cuba and my country's isolation from the world has done only harm," he said.

Ms Pehrsson said she voted against joining the currency because she was concerned about saving democracy. "I think democracy is best preserved by keeping power close to the people," she said. .

The scenes and conversations in this Stockholm school playground were probably replayed all over Sweden yesterday - across party political and social lines, and between strangers suddenly stripped of their usual reserve.

Rather like a funeral, everyone felt they should go, but all felt a sense of emptiness afterwards because it was over too quickly.