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Until today, Kim Kielsen was the head of Greenland’s caretaker government, installed on September 30 after the resignation of Aleqa Hammond as leader of Siumut, the country’s dominant party of the last 35 years.
Tomorrow, he will officially begin his bid to hang on to that job for the next four years.
Kielsen, 47, was appointed leader of Siumut during a special party meeting in Nuuk today in what election watchers said was an expected outcome after the turmoil of Hammond’s resignation.
COMING MONDAY: Editor's Briefing: Greenland party leader analysis, provided by Polarisk Analytics
The four-way race saw Kielsen garner the votes of 44 of the 65 delegates, clearly outpacing the second-place candidate, Lars-Emil Johansen, one of the party’s founders and the current president of Inatsisartut, the national legislature. Johansen received 17 votes. The other two candidates received two each.
Kielsen had the backing of a number of leading party members, including Hammond, and was described as the ideal candidate to gather a party that had been touched by the resurgence of a culture of scandal in recent years.
Kielsen’s personal profile – a former merchant marine who became a police officer and community activist before entering national politics in 2005 – will sit well with the social-democratic Siumut’s core voters. Despite his rise to prominence, most recently serving as the environment minister, Kielsen remains what many consider a true Greenlander, given his robust stature and skill as a hunter.
For voters concerned that lawmakers have lost touch with the common Greenlander, it is a profile that will come as a relief.
His selection will also come as a relief for his party’s leadership. As the son of an early Siumut member, Kielsen is unlikely to stray from the party line. His loyalty is said to have been proven during Hammond’s term, when he kept his criticism of her leadership behind closed doors.
In the days after the collapse of Hammond’s government, Kielsen explained that he found the episode embarrassing for the party, and that he saw the election as a chance for it to regain the voters’ confidence.
“It wasn’t the party, but certain individuals, that did something wrong,” he said.
At that time, Kielsen also underscored that Siumut would campaign on a platform of economic growth. “A strong economy is necessary for us to address all of the other challenges that face us,” he said.
Before the election was called, the government laid out its goals for the coming year. Those included implementing the reforms urged by the Economic Council, a government advisory panel, in September.
Those goals, Kielsen said, would remain intact should Siumut win in the November 28 election. If he has his way, so will the decision by Inatsisartut last year to permit uranium mining.
That is a wish he may not get. IA, the leading opposition party, has indicated it will seek to reinstate the ban on uranium mining, In a poll taken in mid-September, the opposition was given a slight advantage over a Siumut-led bloc.
Kielsen, however, cautioned that changing the law back would undermine investor confidence in Greenland’s nascent mining industry.
“We don’t invite mining firms to Greenland to gamble with people’s lives or the environment. If companies can mine radioactive materials as a by-product of other mining activity and do it in a safe way, then the presence of uranium shouldn’t stand in the way of mining other minerals.”
For that reason, it has been suggested that whoever wins the election will need to work closely with the opposition in order to pass necessary economic reforms. Among the Siumut candidates standing today, Kielsen was given the best chances of doing that.
For Kielsen, that would preferably be as premier, but as leader of the opposition it would be an opportunity for his party to have a say in the crafting the country’s long-term strategy.
Just as important for Siumut will be to clean up its image. It is hard to imagine a better person for that job than a copper with no skeletons in his closet except for those belonging to the animals he has hunted.