Sweden Votes No


The result of the Swedish referendum on joining the monetary union or not was 55,9% no, 42,0% yes and the rest of the votes were blank or invalid, turnout 82,6%. Anti-euro campaigner Jan Å Johansson dissects the victory.

The result can be divided into sub groups. The no vote was strong everywhere in Sweden except in Stockholm and the southerly Skåne region. One reason that we won was that we succeeded in attracting many no votes among conservative, Christian Democratic and liberal voters. The tallies for these three groups were, according to the exit polls: 23% no votes among the conservatives, 53 % among the Christian Democrats and 26 % no votes among the liberals. The social democrats were split down the middle and the Greens (around 84%) and the Left (around 88%) had a very strong no vote. The fact that this time the Centre party campaigned on the no side was also an important factor, with Center party sympathisers voting 77% no to the euro.

These figures are based on the exit polls. However, the exit polls gave only 51,8% for the no side, compared to 55,9% that was the actual result, so that the no vote among the parties above was probably even bigger.

Among blue collar trade union member 65% voted no, as did 57% of those in public service jobs. Most important of all, it was the women that gave the victory to the no side. Among the women, according to the exit polls, 58% voted no and 40% yes. The figures for men were 52%  yes and 46% no.

The tragic murder

It is possible that the brutal killing of foreign minister Anna Lindh caused some social democrats to vote yes, but it also boosted the turnout. The voters kept the murder and their opinion about the issue in itself apart. It is true that the yes side took a majority among those who made their mind up during the last week or on the referendum day itself, but maybe that would have happened anyway. Due to the murder the campaign more or less stopped three days before  referendum day. If the murder had not happened the yes campaign would have continued with its heavy artillery and the elite politicians would have started their threats about increased interest

rates and taxes, while the industrialists would have threatened to move out of the country. This heavy ammunition was used earlier in the campaign, but not to the extent that was expected.

Dirty campaigning

The political elite and the big industrialists put a lot of money into the yes campaign. Thousands of paid leafleters, expensive materials, advertisements, posters, planting of news in the media, research and presenting of  “scientific reports” were just some of the tactics employed. The yes side  had the backing of a majority of the media, the larger political party machines, the elite politicians and many leading trade unionists. Promises from the yes side, such as the claim that to remain outside would cost one thousand kronor every month for a family with a mortgage to pay, that 100.000 new public jobs would be created by a yes vote, that lower food prices would give a household 30.000 kronor more to spend every year, were endless.

But that did not help. Sometimes the political message is just not right. The Swedes realised that France and Germany are not doing that well for the moment and they feared that they would lose their general welfare system and see their democracy undermined.

The no side had the support of several economists able to explain just why the future for Sweden as a eurozone country would be dangerous. The yes side tried to speak positively about the political future inside the euro and the European Union, but they did not dare to utter the word “federalism”. Many people who  are positive about the European Union voted no to the euro: they want Sweden to be member of the EU, but they do not want Brussels and Frankfurt to be able to decide everything.

Sleazy tactics, including “guilt by association” were used by the yes side. The extreme right wing Sweden Democrats were given space in the newspaper Expressen. This was the  first time this ever has happened, and it was done to discredit opponents of the euro in general, especially the Center Party. According to Expressen they wanted to show “which political forces there are on the no side”. The Conservative Party placed advertisements featuring Stalin and claiming that if Sweden voted no we would become some sort of new Soviet state.

What will happen in the future?

We on the no side hope that Sweden can show the way for a more flexible and less centrally governed cooperation in Europe. But of course the elite politicians and the political editors in the pro-euro press try to paint us as nationalist, self-sufficient reactionaries. Liberal political editors, and also some leading politicians, have responded to the result with a cry of “never again a referendum”. Not all elite politicians dare to say that, but they are reluctant to realise that the voters are not that interested in continued development of supra nationality in the European Union.

The referendum, however,  was just a battle won. Our enemies have the power and the possibility to form new ideas of economic and fiscal supra nationality within the European Union. The next big battle will be to organise the campaign against the proposal of a

constitutional treaty for the European Union.

Jan Å Johansson was head of office for the campaign Europe yes – euro no.