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Swede euro vote thrown wide open

Stockholm, Sept. 13 (Reuters): Swedish sympathy for slain pro-euro foreign minister Anna Lindh has thrown tomorrow’s vote on swapping the crown for the euro wide open, with one poll on the eve of the referendum pointing to an upset “Yes” win.

Police said they were “very anxious” to quiz a dark-haired man in a cap aged about 30 who was photographed by a security camera in the department store where Lindh was stabbed on Wednesday. They said he could be the killer, or a key witness.

In a sign that sympathy for Lindh might swing Swedes towards swapping the crown for the EU’s single currency tomorrow, a Gallup poll gave euro supporters a 43-42 per cent lead, the first survey to point to a “Yes” win since April.

But, in a bewildering span of conflicting poll results, a Temo survey indicated a clear 46-40 per cent “No” victory, little changed from before Lindh’s death. A DI/Ruabs poll based on a tiny sample indicated a surge in “Yes” support to a neck-and-neck 44-44 per cent.

“There is a national sense of catastrophe,” said Arne Modig, a senior consultant at Temo. “Voters are having a hard time deciding.” Lindh, 46, was a fervent campaigner for a “Yes” vote and up to 50,000 people attended a democracy vigil in her honour in Stockholm yesterday, the biggest political rally since the Vietnam War. The murder reminded Swedes of the unsolved 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Today, Swedish finance minister Bosse Ringholm predicted a “Yes” win and said it might encourage Scandinavian neighbour Denmark to follow suit. Britain, Denmark and Sweden are the only EU nations outside the euro. “I’m convinced we will have a small majority for the ‘Yes’ side,” Ringholm said on the fringes of an EU finance ministers’ meeting in Italy.

His EU colleagues said they would welcome Sweden into the euro. “It would be like an extra friend,” Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm said.

But Ulla Hoffmann, head of the Sweden’s anti-euro Left Party, said: “It’s up to the people now to decide. I wouldn’t dare make a guess on who is going to win.” She said that Swedes were “uncertain and frightened” after Lindh’s death.

Thousands of Swedes crowded outside the store where Lindh was knifed, to lay flowers on a pile more than a metre high. “I feel sympathy for her but I’m still going to vote ‘No’,” said Jorgen Ekstrand, 56. “I like the crown.”

“I’m voting ‘Yes’,” said Johanna Elgenius, 33. “Her death could win sympathy votes... but it also might make some people vote ‘No’ because they may be even more worried by change.”

Many Swedes fear that joining the euro could undermine their generous cradle-to-grave welfare system, despite the high-profile “Yes” campaign led by Prime Minister Goran Persson and big business.

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