Danish PM's party rebound fuels speculation of early election

COPENHAGEN Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:44am EST

Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt inaugurates the country's biggest offshore wind power farm near the island of Anholt September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Henning Bagger/Scanpix Denmark

Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt inaugurates the country's biggest offshore wind power farm near the island of Anholt September 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Henning Bagger/Scanpix Denmark

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The Danish prime minister's Social Democratic Party edged ahead of its main rival for the first time in two years in a poll released on Monday, fuelling media speculation of an early election.

The result marked a rebound for a party which had seen its support fall away as it forced through cuts to unemployment benefits, student grants and other parts of the country's generous welfare system.

It has been helped by a fall in backing for the rival Liberals, whose leader, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, was widely criticized in the media last month for travelling first class in his role as head of climate body the Global Green Growth Institute.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats would get 24.6 percent of votes if elections were held today, against 24.3 percent for the Liberals, according to the Voxmeter survey for the Ritzau news agency.

"Helle Thorning-Schmidt could not have dreamt of a better comeback than the one Lokke has given her," wrote Thomas Larsen, political commentator for daily Berlingske Tidende.

"If the development continues over the next months, she could be faced with a very interesting launch pad for a snap election at the start of the year," he added, commenting on an earlier poll showing Liberal support falling.

Elections are currently scheduled for 2015.

Thorning-Schmidt unseated Rasmussen's liberal-conservative coalition two years ago. But her cuts and perceived failure to revitalize the economy saw her party's backing fall to historic lows of 16.3 percent in April.

The new poll would give the government's "red bloc" 50.5 percent support against 49.2 percent to the opposition "blue bloc".

(Reporting by Mette Fraende; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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