Denmark is about to elect its first conservative government this century, according to opinion polls taken on the eve of tomorrow's general election. The traditionally left-leaning Danes are expected to give increasing support to Prime Minister Poul Schluter, whose four-party minority coalition took over after the Social Democrats resigned in September 1981.
If the conservative swing is significant, Denmark, which has had seven elections in 13 years, may have its first full-year parliament since the 1960s.
Denmark's 179-seat, single-chamber parliament boasts perhaps the world's most finely tuned system of proportional representation. There are nine parties in the present house, and the electoral fortune of even the smallest could shape the next government.
The Social Democrats hold the most seats, 59. The Conservatives have 26, but since forming the government they have enjoyed an astonishing boost in popular support. Their four-party coalition is expected to account for more than 50 percent of Tuesday's vote.
Despite advantageous issues for the left, like concern over Euromissiles and unemployment in excess of 300,000, the Conservatives are more popular than at any time since 1943. Political scientist Steen Sauerberg of the University of Copenhagen explains that there has been a change of values on the part of many disillu-sioned young voters. Within the ranks of the unemployed are many home and car owners who see benefits in such Conservative policies as lowering interest rates.
''There is not the same kind of class voting today,'' he says. ''The old ties have loosened and many Social Democrats are now likely to vote conservative.''
While the national mood has moved to the political right, the general public remains committed to the fundamentals of Denmark's legendary welfare state.