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For Greenland’s premier, two reasons to be relieved

Aleqa Hammond avoids no-confidence vote, granted leave of absence while parliament investigates use of public funds on personal expenses

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Greenland’s political leader dodged a pair of bullets today, as she first avoided a no-confidence vote and then was granted a leave of absence in order to consider her next step as a parliamentary committee prepares to look into whether her use of public funds for personal expenses constitutes a crime.

Inatsisartut, the 31-member national legislature, holding the opening day of its autumn session today, voted 15-14 along party lines to accept Premier Aleqa Hammond’s request for a leave of absence while the Auditing Committee reviews a report concluding she spent 106,000 kroner ($20,000) on personal expenses. The funds have since been repaid.

As expected, Kim Kielsen, the current environment and nature minister and vice-premier, will serve as acting premier during Hammond’s absence.

The vote had been put on the agenda as an extraoridinary item after Hammond announced Monday night she would request the leave.

In her address to Inatsisartut today, prior to both votes, Hammond explained that she was requesting the leave “in order to give the parliament time to work with this under more calm circumstances”.

SEE RELATED: Ticking down

Unexpectedly, Inatsisartut members from the opposition were able to put forward a motion on whether to hold a no-confidence vote.

The motion was rejected by the same 15-14 margin.

The four parties had announced they would seek to put forward the motion, but it was not on today’s agenda, and the vote was not expected until the committee had reviewed the report.

In calling for the no-confidence vote, Juliane Henningsen, a member of the opposition IA party, argued that instead of asking for a leave of absence, Hammond should resign.

“If you have broken the law, you sholdn't have the honour of leading the country,” Hemmingsen said during deliberations.

SEE RELATED: Forward no more

Although Hammond has said she accepts the blame for the mis-use of funds, she, like other observers, point out that it is unclear whether any laws were broken. Hammond herself has said the error arose when a staff member mistakenly billed the airfare for family members accompanying her on official travel to the Self-Rule authority.

A parliamentary by-law made it possible for the motion to be put forward.

The motion was put forward by Hans Enoksen, a former premier who left Hammond’s Siumut party earlier this year.