June 17, 2015 / 2:50 PM / 2 years ago

Greenland and Faroes may help Danish PM in knife-edge vote

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark’s former colonies of Greenland and the Faroe Islands are likely to swing Thursday’s knife-edge election toward Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt if polls are right in predicting a close result on the mainland.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Social Democrats) looks out a window of a bus on the second day of her two-day campaign tour of Denmark, June 15, 2015. REUTERS/Asger Ladefoged/Scanpix Denmark

But local issues add uncertainties, such as Faroese anger with a decision by Thorning-Schmidt’s government to bar Faroese mackerel fishing boats from Danish ports in a dispute over quotas in 2013.

Opinion polls, taken only in Denmark, point to a cliff-hanger between the government’s center-left alliance and the center-right opposition led by former premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Those polls only apply to 175 of the 179 seats in parliament, omitting two each in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are part of the Realm of Denmark with wide autonomy.

In elections this century, both of Greenland’s parliamentarians have backed the center-left bloc while the Faroes’ have been split.

If that pattern continues, as many analysts expect, Thorning-Schmidt would get three seats to one for Rasmussen.

“It is completely 50-50 in Denmark so it will be those four who decide who will be the prime minister,” said Camilla Fjeldsoe of pollsters Gallup.

But there are many unknowns. She said it was hard to gauge opinion in Greenland, where 56,000 people live scattered across the world’s biggest island.

Thorning-Schmidt has trumpeted economic recovery in Denmark, while Rasmussen promises lower spending and tax breaks. Neither position resonates much in the Faroes or icy Greenland, which run their own affairs.

One of the two parties with a seat in parliament from Greenland, the Inuit Ataqatigiit, has said it will not necessarily keep supporting the center-left bloc.

“But I have a hard time seeing a left-wing party in Greenland overturning a red government,” said Hans Jakob Helms, an analyst on Greenland and a novelist.

Thursday’s election could echo that of 1998, when 180 votes in the Faroe Islands, home to 50,000 people, tipped the Danish election by one seat to re-elect a center-left government.

An opinion poll in the Faroes this week indicated that Rasmussen was set to secure the backing of one seat and that a pro-independence party, which has hinted it might back him, was catching up with the Social Democrat candidate.

“Support for the red bloc is in jeopardy,” said Jogvan Morkore of the Fynd polling group. “Faroese voters may punish Thorning-Schmidt for her role in the mackerel dispute.”

Polls close in Denmark at 1800 GMT on Thursday, in the Faroes at 1900 and in Greenland 2200.

Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Andrew Roche

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