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A time to campaign

Greenland’s newly elected opposition leader says she will marshal the party in preparation for the next general election
Olsvig and runner-up Egede (left) agreed not to let the close vote come between them (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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At a time when much of the discussion in Greenlandic politics is about the country’s economic future, it was traditional socialist values that took centre stage as the opposition party IA selected its new leader today.

Campaigning on a platform of greater equality and improved social welfare, Sara Olsvig, 35, edged rival and the party’s deputy leader Aqqaluaq B Egede, 33, by a margin of two votes during an extra-ordinary party meeting today in Nuuk.

Olsvig takes over the leadership of IA from Kuupik Kleist, who stepped down in April in a move he said he hoped would re-invigorate the party.

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With the victory, Olsvig will resign her seat in the Danish parliament in order to be able to devote time to her work in the Greenlandic parliament and to strengthen the party.

“It is time for us to stand together, despite the close vote. We should be satisfied that IA has elected a strong leader and a strong deputy leader. The task at hand is now to prepare for the next election,” Olsvig said in her acceptance speech.

As leader, Olsvig, who was elected to the Danish parliament in 2011 and the Greenlandic parliament last year, will be able to draw on her legislative experience in both countries.

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She is also credited with improving management of the party’s Copenhagen office, and it is hoped she can use that experience to revive the party at the local and national level in Greenland.

“I look forward to travelling the country, visiting our local chapters and listening to their messages,” she said.

In addition to reinforcing the party’s socialist profile, Olsvig said she would also concentrate on major issues such as fishing and mining policies. Creating a strategy to help development of the country’s hamlets is also high on her agenda, she said prior to today’s election.

Despite the close vote, Egede said he was ready to continue in his role as the party’s second-in-command and to support Olsvig’s leadership agenda.

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“Sara and I discussed that only one of use would be able to become leader, and that we would still be able to work together, regardless of the outcome. The party has made the right decision, and that can only improve the way we work together,” Egede said.

In congratulating Olsvig, Kleist, who served as premier between 2009 and 2013, expressed confidence that she would make a skilled leader of the party and of the country.

“The outcome of the leadership vote is decisive not just for IA’s future. It will also be decisive for the country’s future as well,” Kleist said. “It’s been said that our selection of leader will play a big role for the country. Considering how the country is being governed right now, the most important job will be to help get Greenland back on course.”