By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark could become the third Nordic country in a year to elect a leftist government as voters in Wednesday's parliamentary election appeared to rebel against austerity measures and deal a blow to right-wing nationalists.
Danes looked to oust Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in the election, paving the way for an attempt by the Social Democratic leader Mette Frederiksen, 41, to become Denmark's youngest prime minister in history as her party took a lead together with the rest of the left-wing opposition.
The leftist opposition bloc appeared to get 96 seats against 79 for the ruling Liberal Party and others on the right, state broadcaster DR projected based on 94% of votes counted.
The nationalist Danish People's Party, which has supported Rasmussen's minority government, appeared to have lost its edge with most mainstream parties backing a tougher stance on immigration, losing more than half of its voters since the 2015 election.
Frederiksen's promise to increase welfare spending after years of austerity along with her tougher stance on immigration had gone down well with voters in opinion polls ahead of the vote.
The Nordic model has been the gold standard for welfare for many left-leaning politicians globally. But ageing populations have prompted governments to chip away at the cradle-to-grave welfare state.
Many Danes, who like counterparts in other Nordic states pay some of the highest taxes in the world to underpin their welfare system, worry that further austerity will erode the universal health care, education and elderly services long seen as a given.
In Finland and Sweden, the Social Democratic parties also formed governments earlier this year.
In Denmark, the Social Democrats remained the biggest party with support holding at 2015 levels, according to the vote count.
Frederiksen has repeatedly said she would try to form a minority one-party government but may find it difficult to combine her own party's tougher immigration policies with the softer stance of most parties on the left.
The parties she will rely on include the Socialist People's Party and the Social-Liberal Party, the latter which used to be headed by European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Both parties looked to more than double support.
Both have campaigned for a more gentle immigration policy and greater efforts to combat climate change, echoing a surge in support for Europe's Greens at the European Union elections last month, surfing a global wave of climate activism.
Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are part of the Kingdom of Denmark with wide autonomy, each have two of parliament's 179 seats.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Stine Jacobsen and Andreas Mortensen; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Phil Berlowitz)
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2019 03:07:25 IST