Dead heat in Denmark exit polls
Denmark's government and the centre-right opposition are in a dead heat in the country's parliamentary election, an exit poll has showed, potentially giving voters in the semi-autonomous Faroe Islands and Greenland a decisive role.
The exit poll broadcast by Denmark's TV2 gave the opposition 88 seats, and 87 for parties supporting Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's centre-left government. That would still leave the race open because it does not count the four seats from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The poll was based on about 6,000 interviews and had a margin of error of about three percentage points.
Kasper Jensen of polling institute Megafon sounded a note of caution, saying the exit poll was not a final result.
It's "only an indication of what a representative group of people had voted", Mr Jensen said.
Ms Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats and opposition leader Lars Loekke Rasmussen's Liberals depend on other parties to build a majority in the 179-seat Folketing, or parliament.
In addition to the 175 seats decided by voters in Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland get two seats each. The two territories in the North Atlantic have self-rule except on matters such as foreign and defence policy.
If the vote is close, those four seats could swing a result in favour of either Ms Thorning-Schmidt or Mr Loekke Rasmussen. Currently, the government bloc has three of the four seats. Polling stations in the Faroes close at 1900 GMT while those in Greenland shut down three hours later.
The last time the North Atlantic vote decided a Danish election was in 1998, when the Social Democrats won.
Election campaigns focused welfare spending, the economy and immigration, with both Ms Thorning-Schmidt and Mr Loekke Rasmussen promising to further tighten Denmark's controls on immigrants.
Mr Loekke Rasmussen, a former prime minister, needs support from the populist Danish People's Party, which wants to reintroduce border controls against neighbouring countries.
That is controversial among many in the European Union who feel it would challenge the idea of a borderless Europe. But Mr Loekke Rasmussen appeared to endorse the proposal as he cast his vote in Copenhagen.
"I want an open Denmark, but I also want a Denmark that is efficiently shut for people who don't want our country," Mr Loekke Rasmussen said.
Ms Thorning-Schmidt voted not too far away, accompanied by her husband, Stephen Kinnock, who was elected to the UK Parliament for the Labour Party in Aberavon last month. He was not voting.
Ms Thorning-Schmidt, a prime minister since 2011, emphasised Denmark's economic growth in recent years.
"That road we have steered Denmark onto, where we have a grip on the economy, where there is money for the welfare, if that is the way you want to take, then you must vote for the Social Democrats," she said.
The TV2 exit poll showed a drop for Mr Loekke Rasmussen's Liberal Party and gains by the Danish People's Party.
The Social Democrats had about one-quarter of the votes in the poll, which is what they got in the last election.
Ms Thorning-Schmidt has pledged to raise welfare spending by 39 billion kroner (£3.7 billion), while the opposition says that improvements can be achieved without expanding the public sector.
Candidates were campaigning until the very end, handing out leaflets, flowers, balloons and sweets to voters on the streets and squares of the Scandinavian country of 5.6 million.
According to pollsters, up to 20% of Danish voters had not made up their minds before the election.