May 7, 2019 / 11:26 AM / 3 months ago

Denmark's prime minister calls election for June 5

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will hold a parliamentary election on June 5, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Tuesday, starting a campaign likely to focus on cracks in the Nordic country’s cherished welfare model.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen is seen on his way at the Media Anniversary after he announced the general elections to be held on June 5, 2019, in front of Axelborg in Copenhagen, Denmark May 7, 2019. Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. DENMARK OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN DENMARK.

Polls indicate that a coalition led by Rasmussen’s center-right Liberal Party will lose power to a center-left bloc led by Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democratic Party.

Support for the center-left bloc stands at 54.8 percent, according to an average of polls published by Berlingske Barometer.

Frederiksen is currently in hospital due to a stomach upset.

The two blocs have mainly been at odds over welfare spending, as changing demographics put pressure on a cradle-to-grave welfare system that includes universal healthcare, education and services for the elderly.

“Even though there are differences between parties, we agree on a lot. We agree to prioritize welfare,” Rasmussen said in parliament.

“But we must not forget that good welfare takes a healthy economy.”

Danes, like citizens of other Nordic nations, pay some of the highest taxes in the world. Rasmussen has during his four years as prime minister continued a string of reforms and tax cuts aimed at boosting economic growth.

The Nordic welfare model featured in the last U.S. presidential election campaign, when Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders pointed to Denmark as a model for his vision of an ideal American future.

The Social Democratic Party has pledged to increase public spending and partially roll back recent pension reforms by allowing people who have worked 40 years to retire earlier.

By taking a tougher stance on immigration, Frederiksen has in particular gained votes from the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DF), which has been part of the political establishment in Denmark for decades.

Berlingske Barometer shows that support for DF has dropped to 13.4 percent from the 21.1 percent achieved in the last election in 2015.

Both parties face competition from two new far-right anti-immigrant parties, Hard Line and The New Right, which will gain seats in parliament if they clear the 2 percent barrier required to enter the Danish parliament.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen; additional reporting by Andreas Mortensen; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Ed Osmond

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