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An election-less coalition

Supermajority coalition set to govern Greenland

Greenland’s new governing coalition agrees on a lot. Including to agree to disagree on areas where they don’t
Can everyone say ‘coalition’ (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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Politics in Greenlandic: a primer
Naalakkersuisut: the elected government; the cabinet. Expected to have nine members after the formation of the new coaltion (see below)

Naalakkersuisut siulittaasuat: leader of Naalakkersuisut; premier. Since 2014: Kim Kielsen (Siumut)

Naalakkersuisoq: cabinet member, minister

Inatsisartut: the 31-seat national assembly; Greenland’s parliament

Siumut (English: Forward): Greenland’s first and most successful political party. Founded in 1977 as a social-democratic party. Pro-independence. Pro-uranium mining. Held power from the implementation of Home Rule in 1979 until 2009, and then again starting in 2013. Currently has 11 seats in Inatsisartut. Until earlier this year it also held one of Greenland’s two seats in the Folketing, the Danish national assembly.

Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) (English: Inuit Brotherhood): A socialist-oriented party lying to the left of Siumut. Pro-independence. Anti-uranium mining. Currently the largest opposition party, with 11 seats in Inatsisartut. The only party other than Siumut to rule Greenland (2009-2013). Holds Greenland’s other seat in the Folketing. Leader: Sara Olsvig (pictured above, at left).  

Demokraatit (English: Democrats): Economically liberal. Lies to the centre-right politically. Favours maintaining close ties to Denmark. Pro-uranium mining. Currently holds four seats in Inatsisartut. Leader: Randi Vestergaard Evaldsen

Atassut (English: Solidarity): Economically liberal, socially conservative. Lies to the cenre-left. Was once known as the most pro-Danish party, now favours increased Greenlandic autonomy but within the Kingdom of Denmark. Holds two seats in Inatsisartut. Leader: Knud Kristiansen.

Partii Naleraq (English: Milestone/Inukshuk/Cairn): Formed in 2014 by former premier Hans Enoksen (2002-2009) after leaving Siumut over disagreements with the party’s direction, mostly its pro-uranium stance. Partii Naleraq was initially viewed as populist party, but its policies reflect its origins as a Siumut off-shoot, and was close to joining the governing coalition in 2014. Earned three seats in Inatsisartut in the 2014 election but now holds only two, after one member dropped out. Leader: Hans Enoksen.

Premier: Kim Kielsen (Siumut)
Minister of Social and Family Affairs, Equality and Justice: Sara Olsvig (IA)
Minister of Fishing and Hunting: Hans Enoksen (Partii Naleraq)
Minister of Finane and Taxation: Aqqaluaq B Egede (IA)
Minister of Commerce, Employment, Trade, Energy and Foreign Affairs: Vittus Qujaukitsoq (Siumut)
Minister of Health and Prevention and Nordic Co-operation: Agathe Fontain (IA)
Minister of Municipal Affairs, Infrastructure and Housing: Martha Lund Olsen (Siumut)
Minister of Education, Research, Culture and Ecclesiastical Affairs: Doris Jakobsen (Siumut)
Minister of Minerals and Mining: Múte B Egede (IA)
Minister of Independence, Environment, Nature and Agriculture: Suka K Frederiksen (Siumut)

As far as political upheaval goes, the announcement today that Siumut, Greenland’s leading political party, was breaking with its two coalition partners to form a new supermajority government was something that most saw coming from a mile off.

Since coming to power in December 2014, Siumut’s three-party coalition, drawn together mostly because of a common support for uranium mining, had not had the easiest of relationships when it came to other issues. During the current session of Inatsisartut, the national assembly, the fissures appeared only to have grown wider, with the parties diverging on key issues, often appearing in the press bickering with each other.

So, when it emerged earlier this week that Siumut was flirting with IA, the largest opposition party, few found the likelihood of a match that far-fetched: politically, the two parties, who will be joined by Partii Naleraq in forming the new government, have much in common.

SEE RELATED: Forward no more

Both Siumut and IA fall to the left of centre, while Partii Naleraq is a Siumut off-shoot; they are all staunch supporters of independence (hence the creation of an ‘independence’ portfolio in the new cabinet); they favour the public sector doing more to address matters of social inequality; and they are in favour of using public measures to keep the country’s smallest communities viable.

For now, what differences the parties do have appear to have been papered over. Some of them are relatively minor, including whether to build a new building to house the national assembly. More troublesome is whether to permit uranium mining. The matter appeared to have been settled in a November 2013 Inatsisartut vote to allow it. The measure, however passed by just a single vote, and IA and Partii Naleraq remain opposed, suggesting that referendum should be called to let voters have the final say.

Rather than letting the issue divide them, the new coalition has decided to put off talking about it until they can work through more pressing matters.

“The parties don’t want this single issue to prevent us from being able to work together,” the manifesto states.

With 24 of Inatsiartut’s 31 seats, the coalition’s biggest challenge, it appears will be keeping a lid on internal rivalries: Siumut retains the premiership, but the party holds the same number of seats as IA, which is the only party other than Siumut ever to hold power in Greenland.

With just two seats, Partii Naleraq is, on paper, the junior partner in the new coalition. The party, however, was formed by Hans Enoksen (pictured above, at right), a former premier who, though he defected from Siumut in 2014, remains close to Kim Kielsen (pictured above, at centre), the current premier.

With a coalition like that, who needs an opposition.