Pro-independence party wins Greenland's election

4th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The victory could speed up the island's efforts toward full independence, with the newly elected party pushing for a more aggressive stance than the ousted social democrats.

Copenhagen -- The pro-independence Inuit Ataqatigiit party won Greenland's parliamentary elections, just weeks before a new self-rule status goes into effect in the Danish semi-autonomous territory.

The victory could speed up the island's efforts toward full independence, with the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Inuit Community, IA) pushing for a more aggressive stance than the ousted social democratic Siumut party that has run the island for the past three decades, according to observers.

The leftist IA took 43.7 percent of the vote, double its standing in the last election in 2005, and garnering 14 of the 31 seats in the parliament.

Siumut will have nine, as their support slid 3.9 points to 26.5 percent in Tuesday's vote.

"Greenland deserves this,” said IA party leader Kuupik Kleist on Greenland Radio as he celebrated with hundreds of supporters, expressing hope that with "the help of everyone we can lead this country forward, into a new era."

Siumut called the snap election so a new government could be in place when the new self-rule status takes effect on June 21.

The new status paves the way for independence and gives the island rights to lucrative Arctic resources, as well as control over justice and police affairs and, to a certain extent, foreign affairs.

According to political observers, voters were keen to punish Siumut for its perceived abuses of power after a slew of scandals, including one over expenses similar to the recent debate in Britain.

And while Siumut was seen as the party that brought semi-autonomy to Greenland and was behind the November 2008 referendum on self-rule that was approved by 75.5 percent of voters, observers said there were growing concerns about its ability to manage the island, especially with greater autonomy.

IA is in favour of accelerating efforts to take the island even further, toward full independence, as quickly as possible.

Independence has grown especially important due to the potentially lucrative revenues from natural resources under Greenland's seabed and icecap, which according to international experts is home to large oil and gas deposits as well as diamonds, gold and other minerals.

With 14 of 31 seats in parliament, IA will not hold a majority and will therefore hold talks on Wednesday to hammer out a coalition.

While IA served in a coalition with Siumut until 2007, Kleist ruled out that option after his election victory.

"Voters have placed a large responsibility on our shoulders ... but that doesn't change our position. There will be no cooperation with Siumut," he said.

After his defeat, Hans Enoksen, who has headed the local government since 2002, said he was ready to step down as Siumut leader.

The liberal Atassut party, part of the outgoing ruling coalition with Siumut, saw its support fall by nearly half to 10.9 percent, and it will have three seats in parliament.

The opposition Democrats also saw a steep drop in support to 12.7 percent, and will have four seats.

The small Katusequatigiit Partiiat got the remaining seat.

The island of just 57,000 people is rife with social problems and depends heavily on Danish subsidies.

However global warming could unlock potentially lucrative revenues from natural resources under its seabed and icecap.

Voter turnout was high, at 71.3 percent.

Slim Allagui/AFP/Expatica

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