Norway's right-wing clear election favourite: poll

OSLO (AFP) - Norway's centre-right opposition, led by the Conservatives and including a populist anti-immigration party, looks set to oust Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in a general election, a poll showed Sunday as voting began in parts of the country.

A survey published in daily Aftenposten credited the four centre-right parties with 54.3 per cent of voter support, which would give them a comfortable majority of 95 of 169 seats in parliament.

The centre-right is made up of the Conservatives, headed by Ms Erna Solberg who is tipped to become the next prime minister, the populist Progress Party, and two smaller parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals.

Meanwhile, Mr Stoltenberg's centre-left coalition, composed of his Labour Party, the Left Socialists and Centrists, garnered just 39 per cent of voter sympathies in Aftenposten's poll, which would translate to 68 seats in parliament.

In government since 2005, the centre-left is seen as suffering from power fatigue and has been criticised for authorities' critical failures to prevent Anders Behring Breivik's July 22, 2011 attacks that left 77 people dead.

While the centre-right is widely expected to win the election, the exact shape of its future coalition and its political programme have not been hammered out yet, as they depend on how much voter support each party obtains.

The official election day is Monday, but about half of municipalities opened their polling stations on Sunday to give voters more time to cast their ballots.

In addition, of the 3.64 million eligible voters, more than 842,000 have already cast their ballots in advance voting, government officials said.

For Norway, which has largely been spared from the crisis in Europe and has a prosperous economy thanks to oil from the North Sea, the campaign is essentially oriented around health care, education and taxes, and how best to make use of its oil wealth.