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REGIONAL JOURNALISM, GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.

Politics
Politics in Greenland

Winners and the discontented

Greenland’s political parties are looking on the bright side of a lacklustre local election
Politics
A political majority (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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As far as voters are concerned, it appears the best thing that can be said about yesterday’s local elections in Greenland is that they are over.

In Nuuk, where the race for the 19 local council seats had been especially hotly contested, voters, according to an informal survey taken by KNR, a broadcaster, indicated they had been disappointed by campaigning that had involved a number of personal attacks, some of which had resulted in threats of legal action.

While races in other parts of the country lacked the drama that led up to election day in the capital, turnout was just as mediocre; on a national basis, 61% of eligible voters cast a ballot, slightly higher than at the previous election, in 2013.

SEE RELATED: Hyper-local election

No single party dominated, leaving each to highlight the ways in which the election fell out in its favour. For Siumut, the country’s largest party and which holds the premier’s office, the talking point is that its candidates again drew most votes, nearly half of the 25,000 ballots cast. It is a result that will see Siumut occupy the mayor’s office in three of the country’s five councils.

Detractors will point out that its support declined 6%, a worrisome trend as the parties now start looking ahead to the general election, which must be held by autumn 2018. In the 2014 general election, Siumut shed 8.6% of its support. Though it emerged the winner in that contest, its margin was just a single percentage point. A second consecutive decline in an election as the party grapples with an internal power struggle has it on the back foot for the time being.

IA, which formed a government with Siumut in October, but which is otherwise its main rival, won second most votes nationally, adding 3% to its 2013 result. In the race for the Sermersooq Council, which encompasses Nuuk, it was the largest vote-getter, but the gain here was just 1%.

SEE RELATED: Greenland’s constitutional commission

Siumut dropped 7.4% in the same race, but IA’s focus has been on the landslide win by the incumbent mayor, Asii Chemnitz Narup (pictured above, at left), whose 2,259 votes were nearly as many as the 2,627 ballots cast for all of Siumut’s candidates combined. IA is tracking to win nine seats on the council. Its big win, however, may be the moral high ground in an election that pundits called a “politics at its dirtiest”.

“Instead of throwing mud, we put our effort into campaigning about the issues, especially allowing communities to make as many decisions locally as possible,” Sara Olsvig, the party’s chair, sold sermitsiaq.ag, our sister website.

Perhaps the biggest electoral win came not for a party but for a gender: counting Ms Narup, it is likely there will be three female mayors. Among them will be Kiista P Isaksen, who will lead Kujalleq Council. Ms Isaksen’s win comes in a race that was billed as a sure thing for either the incumbent or the man he replaced in 2013. As expected, the race between the two male candidates was close, 256-212. Ms Isaksen out-polled them by nearly two to one, winning with a total of 456 votes.

Randi Vestergaard Evaldsen, the chair of the Demokraatit party, suggested the results were no fluke.

“Women dare to do more now,” she said. “More are getting an education. More dare to challenge men and to put them in their place during debates. Perhaps we need to start thinking about how we avoid winding up with them being underrepresented in politics.”