Right-wingers may be crucial in Greenland coalition

Campaign name-calling could affect party relationships


Pre-election polls in Greenland showed this past Tuesday’s parliamentary election leading to another coalition government, but to the surprise of many, Siumut managed to hold on to its 10 seats in the 31-seat legislature, despite a bitter internal leadership struggle.

And instead of gaining seats as expected, the left-leaning Inuit Ataqatigiit party lost one seat – ending up with seven. The centre-right Demokrates added two seats, bringing their total to seven. Atassut won six seats, a loss of one.

Atassut began negotiations on Wednesday with Siumut on a possible partnership.

“We want a system change, but we need to accept that Siumut had a really good election,” Atassut MLA Ellen Christofferson told Greenland’s KNR TV.

Last-minute squabbles made it unclear, as of Nunatsiaq News press time on Wednesday, just which of the leading parties would join forces to form the new Home Rule government.

“After the weekend, it seemed like a coalition between the Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) and the Demokrates was the only solution,” said a seasoned political observer last Friday in Nuuk. “But in politics everything is possible.”

Pre-election opinion polls had indicated that the middle-of-the-road Siumut party, which has held power either alone or as part of a coalition for all 26 years of Home Rule government, would finally have to endure a spell in opposition. IA and the Demokrates were projected to win enough seats between them to form a coalition government.

But after Tuesday’s election it looks as if the right-of-centre Atassut party will play the deciding role in forming Greenland’s new governing coalition.

After Greenland’s most recent election in 2002, Siumut entered into a coalition with Atassut. That partnership quickly collapsed, and Siumut then formed a coalition with IA. That relationship broke down last September when two ministers resigned over the summer after allegations that they used government funds for personal expenses, including booze and expensive dinners.

Following a live television debate this past Saturday, IA chairman Josef “Tuusi” Motzfeldt threatened to reject any future cooperation with Siumut.

That’s because one of Siumut’s leaders, Lars-Emil Johansen, said some of his colleagues in other parties were drug users.

This comment came when Motzfeldt said Siumut should solve its internal conflicts, and Johansen answered that at least Siumut party leaders weren’t drug users – although Johansen didn’t mention IA directly.

“Siumut has humiliated everybody else in the election campaign. We need to stop that sort of rhetoric, with Lars-Emil Johansen’s lack of respect for his fellow human beings. We will reject any cooperation with Siumut,” Motzfeldt said.

But the embattled outgoing premier, Hans Enoksen, won far more votes than any other Siumut candidate, and it may be him – and not Johansen – that possible coalition partners will have to negotiate with.

During another debate, the Demokrates said they would cut financial support to the Inuit Circumpolar Conference.

Palle Christiansen, the Demokrates’ vice-chairman, said ICC should find money from the private sector.

IA’s vice-chairman, Kuupik Kleist, said it was unrealistic to think ICC could survive on private donations in Greenland, and that IA wouldn’t cut the economic support to ICC.

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