Denmark's centre-left government and right-wing opposition are neck and neck in the polls ahead of Thursday's general election, with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt
staging a major comeback thanks to a resurgent economy.
On Tuesday, a poll published in the daily Jyllands-Posten credited the right-wing bloc with 49.9 percent of votes and the centre-left bloc with 50.1 percent. In another survey in the broadsheet Politiken, the right was seen winning 50.2 percent and the centre-left 49.8 percent.
"With Helle Thorning-Schmidt, there is a 'prime minister effect': people see her as the head of government more than [opposition leader] Lars Løkke Rasmussen
and that works in her favour, but it doesn't mean she's going to win," said Danish political science professor Drude Dahlerup of Stockholm University.
"The two issues that are going to be decisive in the election are welfare and immigration," said Kasper Hansen, a political science professor at the University of Copenhagen.
"If it's going to be welfare, the Social Democrats
and the Social Liberals
will have an advantage. If it's going to be immigration which is decisive in the voter's mind" the opposition will win, he predicted.
In May, the government raised its growth forecast for 2015 to 1.7 percent, and said it expected the economy to grow by a whole two percent next year.
Thorning-Schmidt, 48, has disappointed many left-wing voters by cutting taxes and keeping in place some of her predecessor's controversial benefit cuts. But the resurgent economy helped her bloc claw back around seven percentage points from the opposition in opinion polls within days after the election announcement.
By successfully focusing the debate on Denmark's cherished welfare state, she managed to give her side a narrow lead in the two weeks that followed.
Opposition leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who led the country between 2009 and 2011, shed support over a series of minor scandals
and for allegedly exaggerating how little a Danish worker on social benefits stood to gain from accepting a job.
Tough on immigration
Still, many voters believe the opposition, which includes the anti-immigration Danish People's Party
(DF), is a better choice on immigration.
Denmark already has some of Europe's strictest laws on immigration after years of right-wing governments relying on the support of the DF, allowing it to shape migration policies in return for its backing on legislation.
DF is expected to garner just over 18 percent in Thursday's election, compared with 12.3 percent in the last vote, but few believe it will seek to join a future government, given its disagreement with its right-wing allies on European issues and welfare spending.
February's attacks in Copenhagen
by gunman Omar El-Hussein, who shot dead a filmmaker outside a free speech event and, later, a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue, have been largely absent from the campaign but they kept immigration on the agenda.
As the campaign neared its final week Rasmussen and the three parties that back his Venstre
party in parliament announced a package aiming to make Denmark a less attractive destination for asylum seekers.
A future right-wing government would crack down on immigration by lowering benefits for newly arrived immigrants and only granting permanent residency to those who have a job and speak Danish.
The legislation would be fast-tracked in government this summer to "bring the asylum influx under control," Rasmussen said.
A surge in the number of people fleeing Syria's civil war pushed up the number of people applying for asylum in Denmark to 14,680 last year
, compared to 2013 when 7,170 sought asylum.
That made it the EU's fifth largest per-capita recipient of asylum seekers, but still far behind neighbouring Sweden, which took in 81,180 refugees.
"I think it's fair to say that in order to pave the way for better integration into our society we need to control the influx," he added.