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They say that all politics is local. If this is true, then in Greenland, a country of 56,000, local elections take on a whole new meaning.
When the country’s voters select their representatives to the five local councils – the legislatures that administer kommuner, administrative districts that, in some cases, are the size of medium-size countries – it will mark the end of a campaign that in the capital has been more personal than it has political.
The campaigning for a seat on Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq, the council that encompasses Nuuk, has been especially bitter, involving accusations that a leading candidate abused the system to purchase a home from national authorities, counter-accusations by the candidate of dirty politics and counter-counter-accusations of slander.
But where this has only reinforced the divisions between parties, they have helped paper over internal strife: a rivalry between the premier, who leads the Siumut party, and a party member who challenged him for the post in 2014, appeared to have been buried in order to set an example to the rest of the party that, instead of campaigning against each other, the real rivals are the opposition parties.
This is made only more complicated by the fact that, at the national level, Siumut and IA, which holds the mayor’s office in Nuuk, share the cabinet.
The mudslinging in Nuuk may end up harming both sides equally among voters. If that is the case, reckons the leader in the current issue of AG, one of two weeklies published by this website’s parent company, it will be to the incumbent mayor’s advantage, since she has already secured the support of what is currently the council’s third-largest party.
The shenanigans in Nuuk, according to AG, are unfortunate, but it concludes that, on balance, the campaigning in all five races has been above the belt. Sermitsiaq, the other weekly, has a dimmer view, concluding that the campaigning in Nuuk is “politics at its dirtiest”.
Outside of Nuuk, there has been considerably less drama. The main issue in Qaasuitsup, in the far north-west, is the division of the council into two separate administrative entities.
To the south of that, Qeqqata will elect a new mayor to replace the long-time incumbent, who is retiring. The winner will need to lead the council at a time when it is coming to grips with the fact that its airport will no longer be the country’s main port of entry. Economic gains from mining and tourism could help ease the psychological blow, however.
Kujalleq, in the extreme south, has shown that rivalry need not turn ugly. There, two Siumut candidates – the current and a former mayor – are vying for the top office without any of the public drama seen in Sermersooq.
Asked what the difference between himself and the incumbent was, Simon Simonsen, told AG: “I don’t think either of us wants to speak poorly about the other. We’ve worked closely during our current terms, but we are very different people. I’m more down-to-earth,” Mr Simonsen, the runner-up in the previous election by a margin of 297-282, said.
Greenland’s size may make local politics personal, but that does not mean its politicians cannot be personable.