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Greenland election

So close, yet so far apart

The atmosphere between Greenland’s new premier and his key ally is as productive as it is friendly, as long as they don’t talk about uranium
Never split us apart (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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Greenland’s newly elected premier, Kim Kielsen, agrees about much with Hans Enoksen. That is fortunate, for it is unlikely that country’s next government can be formed without the support of Enoksen, a former premier himself, and his newly founded Partii Naleraq.

Kielsen, whose Siumut party was the largest vote-getter in Friday’s election, is currently leading negotiations to assemble a coalition to lead the 31-member Inatsisartut assembly.

Finding common ground between the two parties should be easy; Enoksen, though now on his own, was until January a member of Siumut. Of particular concern for both is the fate of Greenland’s independent fishermen. They two are also friends.

SEE RELATED: Eyes on the possibilities

But if there is one issue their two parties do not agree about, it is uranium. And despite candidates’ efforts to emphasise the importance of other issues – including social and economic reforms – during the eight-week campaign, uranium remains as divisive a topic as any in Greenland.

It was under the Siumut-led government last autumn that Inatsisartut overturned the country’s moratorium on uranium mining. The measure passed by a single vote, but it was without the support of Enoksen, then still a member of Siumut.

During the campaign, Partii Naleraq’s scepticism for uranium mining saw it side with IA, the largest opposition party, in calling for a national referendum on the measure.

During an initial meeting between Siumut and Partii Naleraq on Monday, the two parties appeared to be ready to paper-over the issue. The meeting, which lasted 30 minutes longer than Kielsen’s other hour-long meetings with party leaders, ended with audible cheers and applause from behind the closed doors.

“We were happy,” Enoksen said as he left the meeting room. “Our friend said something we liked and some people applauded.”

SEE RELATED: Editor’s Briefing | The fall and rise of Siumut

A second meeting Tuesday ended more abruptly. Though Enoksen declined to go into detail, he acknowledged that the two parties remained at odds over uranium, and that further discussions could only proceed after he had consulted with his supporters.

Kielsen was also open, if more optimistic than Enoksen, about the two parties’ disagreement.

“We’re discussing everything. We’re working to find ways to compromise,” he said.

Mathematically, Partii Naleraq’s support is not decisive for the formation a Siumut-led government. Siumut has 11 seats, Partii Naleraq three. Atassut, Siumut’s traditional ally, would likely chip in its two seats to give Siumut its 16-seat majority. Other alliances are possible, if improbable.

SEE RELATED: May the best coalition win

Perhaps the most discussed of the alternate coalitions is a grand alliance between the left-leaning IA, which earned fewer votes than Siumut, but will have the same number of representatives in Inatsisartut. Sara Olsvig, the party’s leader, was the election’s largest single vote-getter (Kielsen was second and Enoksen thrird), a fact that carries much weight in Greenlandic politics.

Neither Olsvig nor Kielsen has commented about what the two leaders discussed during their meetings Monday and Tuesday, though Olsvig has said her party remains open to a Siumut-IA government.

Such a government, in addition to being well-received by voters, would also offer a signal to businesses that Siumut was serious about its repeated statements that it was prepared to work with other parties to pass economic reforms.

Kielsen has six weeks to form a new government. Should negotiations not melt down, he is expected to be able to present his cabinet as early as December 12.