Thursday March 30, 2017

Register today

REGIONAL JOURNALISM, GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.

Politics
Greenland election

To the polls

Greenland will hold its second general election in less than two years next month
Politics
Polls, not poles

Share this article

Facebook Google Twitter Mail

iAbout Press releases

As part of our continuing efforts to bring you as much information about our region as possible we offer readers a press release service that allows private firms, public agencies, non-governmental organisations and other groups to submit relevant press releases on our website.

All press releases in this section are published in their full length and have not been edited.

If you have a press release or other announcement you would like to have published, please send it to arcticjournal-editor@arcticjournal.com.

We reserve the right to reject press releases we deem irrelevant or inappropriate. 

All material submitted to The Arctic Journal, including pictures and videos, will be assumed to be available for publication by The Arctic Journal and its related entities.

Greenlandic voters will head to the polls on November 28. The vote comes less than two years after they, in March 2013, resoundingly returned Siumut, the country’s dominant party over the past 30 years, to power after a single-term absence.

The announcement was made this evening by Kim Kielsen, the acting premier, and it is the culmination of the dramatic unwinding of the coalition government he had been made the caretaker of less than 24 hours prior.

That he was forced to do so reflects the depths of the chaos that began to engulf the nation’s political landscape starting on Friday, when it was announced that Aleqa Hammond, the woman Kielsen took over from after she was granted a temporary leave of absence, had used public funds to pay for private expenses.

SEE RELATED: Forward no more

On the surface, Kielsen’s call for a new election is an effort to reset the political landscape after the ruling Siumut-Atassut alliance crumbled today following the resignation of four cabinet members. The four quit in disgust over the way the party handled Hammond’s request to go on leave while an investigation into the matter is carried out. Their surprise announcement then prompted a decision by Atassut, the coalition’s junior member, to withdraw its support, something which it had promised the previous day it would not do unless the investigation found Hammond had broken any laws.

But dig deeper, and the election will, of course, be about something far more fundamental. Even prior to Friday’s revelations, Siumut appeared to have lost its mandate. A Sermitsiaq/HS Analyse poll, taken in mid-September, found that the current opposition would win a single-seat majority in the 31-member Inatsisartut, the national legislature.

That the party’s fortune’s have had such a reversal may be the incumbent’s lot. But, observers also point out that Hammond’s pursuit of her political programme has severely divided the nation.

Case in point, says Martin Breum, a Danish journalist and author of a recent book about Greenland’s current political situation, was last year’s bitter debate over whether to repeal a national ban on uranium mining.

“These are deeper rifts than we’ve seen before. But that she was willing to press ahead in spite of the opposition shows her commitment to her belief that what she was doing was right.”

SEE RELATED: For Greenland’s premier, two reasons to be relieved

But Poul Krarup, the editor-in-chief of this website and a journalist who has covered Greenland for the past 30 years, says Hammond’s uncompromising style went against the message she sold to voters during the election.

“She campaigned on being a unifying figure. Instead, she’s divided the country, the people and the parliament and she has set a wedge between us and Denmark.”

Greenland, though it has a wide measure of autonomy, is a member of the Danish kingdom. Hammond has been an outspoken proponent of Greenland’s eventual secession from the kingdom and has done so in occasionally brusque terms. She has ameliorated her message recently but more cautious voters will have a hard time forgetting the 49-year-old’s now-infamous comment that she hopes to see an independent Greenland “in her lifetime”.

She has also set a number of initiatives in motion, including a reconciliation commission and an constitutional commission, that many see as laying the foundation for a vote on independence in the near future.

“But that isn’t what we need most right now,” Krarup says. “We need unity. People were optimistic a few years ago. They aren’t anymore.”

SEE RELATED: Sara Olsvig and the future of Greenland

Economists have warned that Greenland cannot develop the economy necessary to maintain an independent state without making widespread economic reforms. Krarup worries that if those measures only pass along party lines they will likely be overturned when a new government takes office.

Although many will be glad to get the chance to reconsider voting for Siumut in 2013, casting a ballot for the opposition may not lead to a significant change in policy in key areas, says Mikå Mered, the managing director of Polarisk Analytics, a consultancy.

He points out that while IA, the leading opposition party, is currently against uranium mining and would seek to reinstate the ban, it agrees, by and large, with Siumut on other mining issues.

“IA is definitely not against mining,” he says.

SEE RELATED: Shock, shame, Siumut

It remains unclear whether Hammond will stand for election to Inatsisartut again. She has demanded that the legislature’s Audit Committee carry out its review of the report that found she had spent public funds and this may indicate that she wants to clear her name in order to keep open the option to run for the premiership at some point. Possibly even in this election.

“If the committee finds that her alleged mis-use of public funds was in fact a staffer’s mistake, she will storm back into politics and possibly get the premiership back,” Mered says. “It is very premature to argue that she has lost credibility.”

That may be just what her fellow party members fear.