Greenlanders vote for change

Island nation poised to have its first ever female premier

Greenland voters yesterday put the self-governing territory on a course towards greater autonomy and higher taxes for foreign mining companies establishing operations there. 

The election’s biggest winner was the socially-democratic oriented Siumut party, which will return to power after a four-year absence after garnering nearly 43 percent of the vote, giving it 14 seats in the 31-seat parliament.

Incumbent premier Kuupik Kleist and his Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party received just over 34 percent, leaving it with 11 seats.

Should Siumut leader Aleqa Hammond be able to form a coalition, she would become the country’s first female premier.

Hammond said she will start those negotiations after she meets with party officials, perhaps as early as tomorrow. She declined to hint at which party she would approach first about forming the new government.

The results were viewed as a stinging rebuke of Kleist’s policies.

“There has been too much secrecy about mining projects and too many problems for fishermen,” Hammond told the press.

Kleist countered that his party had been punished for making tough and often unpopular decisions.

“I am responsible,” he said. “Our defeat is the result of the tough decisions we have had to make.”

Kleist added that IA did not do enough to combat what he called misinformation spread by Siumut during the campaign.

Siumut is the sister party of Denmark’s Socialdemokraterne, while IA is affiliated with Socialistisk Folkeparti. Questions have been raised about the possibility of the two parties banding together to create a coalition much the same as their counterparts have done in Copenhagen.

Kleist and Hammond were bitter rivals during the campaign and Hammond declined to say whether she would seek to unite with IA.

“The most important thing for us is to work with someone who also views citizen involvement as the most important thing,” she said, referring to concerns that Greenlanders have not be sufficiently consulted about planned mining operations. “Development must be fair to all Greenlanders – both those in villages and those in cities.”

Development was the central issue of the election. As climate change thaws the sea ice around the island and creates new Arctic shipping routes, Greenland has emerged as a place of interest to governments worldwide lusting after its untapped mineral potential and offshore oil and gas.

Kleist’s government opened up Greenland to oil and mining companies, promising that development would create improved infrastructure, jobs and, most of all, wean the territory off its 3.5 billion kroner annual grant from Copenhagen.

Many of Greenland’s inhabitants fear change may be coming too fast, however. Development also carries with it worries of environmental damage that could undermine Greenland’s traditions of hunting and fishing.

The election can also be viewed as a referendum on Greenland’s desire to completely free itself from Danish rule. Even after being granted increased autonomy in 2009, the island’s government still must defer to Copenhagen on decisions about foreign policy, defence and security.

Greenland is far from financially self-sufficient and the annual block grant accounts for more than half of its national income. The more revenues Greenland earns from mining or oil, the more control it has over its economic future.

Many Greenlanders want to use the island’s mineral resources as a way to reduce dependency on Denmark, and during the campaign, Hammond spoke often about wanting to cut ties with the territory’s former colonial master.

Voter turnout was 74.2 percent, up from 71.3 percent in the 2009 election that saw Siumut lose power for the first time since direct elections were implemented in 1977.

Fact file | Greenland election results

– Siumut: 42.8 percent (+16.3)

– Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA): 34.4 percent (-9.3)

– Atassut: 8.1 percent (-2.7)

– Partii Inuit: 6.4 percent (+6.4)

– Democrats: 6.2 percent (-6.5)

– Kattusseqatigiit Partiiat: 1.1 percent (-2.7)

(Figures in brackets indicate increase or decline compared with 2009 general election)



  • Iranian Artist Takes Rebels to Aarhus

    Iranian Artist Takes Rebels to Aarhus

    The defiant collective soul of the Iranian women has transcended eras and borders to haunt Aarhus, Denmark where the city’s art museum, ARoS, is presently hosting an exhibition by Iranian artist Soheila Sokhanvari titled “Rebel Rebel.”

  • Traffic jam will increase in the capital area – more time will be wasted

    Traffic jam will increase in the capital area – more time will be wasted

    A new analysis shows that there will be more pressure on the roads in the capital area towards 2035. With six percent more inhabitants, there will be greater strain on trains and on cycle paths in several places in the region

  • “A Brit walks into a bar…”

    “A Brit walks into a bar…”

    Last night, as I was getting ready to perform in a comedy show at Teater Play in Amager alongside the brilliant Conrad Molden, my four-year-old daughter looked up at me and asked, ‘Daddy, why are you ALWAYS going to do comedy?’

  • Fathers take longer paternity leave with new rules

    Fathers take longer paternity leave with new rules

    Fathers and co-mothers tend to take more days off, according to new figures. Equal leave with newborns ensures more gender equality on the labour market.

  • Palads’ future will (maybe) be decided tonight

    Palads’ future will (maybe) be decided tonight

    Politicians in Copenhagen will today decide whether Nordisk Film can continue with plans to demolish Palad and build a new building.

  • How to survive Copenhagen as an exchange student

    How to survive Copenhagen as an exchange student

    Studying in a different country is a luxurious opportunity, and Copenhagen is a popular destination. Upon arrival, the realization kicks in that adapting to this new environment may be easier said than done.