Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 25, 2014 - 8:51 am

Greenland candidates enter final stretch before Nov. 28 election

Uranium mining among campaign's top issues

JANE GEORGE
A man peers at a campaign poster at a bus stop in Nuuk, Greenland, where an island-wide election takes place Nov. 28, in this photo tweeted by Mads Nyvold.
A man peers at a campaign poster at a bus stop in Nuuk, Greenland, where an island-wide election takes place Nov. 28, in this photo tweeted by Mads Nyvold.
Sara Olsvig, leader of the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, could become Greenland's new premier after the Nov. 28 election. (PHOTO BY LEIFF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ/AG)
Sara Olsvig, leader of the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, could become Greenland's new premier after the Nov. 28 election. (PHOTO BY LEIFF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ/AG)

With only four days to go before voters in Greenland go to the polls Nov. 28 to choose a new parliament, you can see election posters everywhere around the capital city of Nuuk, where recent debates have featured party leaders promoting their platforms.

Some political observers have guessed at a 14- to 16-seat win by the leftist Inuit Ataqatigiit party, led by Sara Olsvig, 36, who could become the new government leader in Greenland, if IA wins a majority of the 31 assembly seats at stake.

Olsvig has an impressive resumé: executive director for the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Greenland, member of Greenland’s Inatsisartut legislature and MP for Greenland at the Danish parliament, where she chaired its Arctic committee, and chaired the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic.

Olsvig also holds a Master of Sciences degree in anthropology from the University of Copenhagen.

But Oslvig’s stance on uranium mining has been controversial — and it’s raised controversy during this election.

Olsvig, who opposed any lifting of a ban on uranium mining when Greenland’s former government overturned a ban on uranium mining in 2013, has argued that uranium mining would harm the environment.

During this campaign, Olsvig has promised that, if she’s elected, she would call an island-wide referendum on uranium mining, although she’s also said that it’s no secret her IA party opposes uranium.

“The Inuit Ataqatigiit party will just hold a referendum because we want to hear people’s position on uranium. That’s the whole point of a referendum… we want a national referendum, which deals with uranium and other radioactive substances in general,” she recently told Greenland’s leading newspaper, Sermitsiaq AG. “Our starting point is a limit on the original zero tolerance, that is, 60 PPM. As we know, this still allows mining to large extent.”

The former premier and leader of the rival Siumut party leader, Aleqa Hammond, whose ousting over the misuse of public money sparked the Nov. 28 election — had overturned a 1988 ban on mining rare earth minerals and uranium in 2013.

Other candidates in the current election have criticized Olsvig, saying the IA would call a referendum on uranium, but then contest the result if it favoured uranium mining.

As for which party will hold power after the Nov. 28 election — that’s uncertain: seats in the 31-seat Inatsisartut assembly are first distributed proportionally according to the percentage of votes received by the parties — and there are six parties with more than 190 candidates, as well as two independents, in the running.

So expect lots of behind-closed-door negotiations in the days after after the votes are counted — although during Nov. 24’s live pre-election debate on KNR, Greenland’s public broadcaster, Olsvig reached out to Kim Kielsen, who chairs the Siumut party, with a list of ways the two leading parties could work together.

Any party or coalition group must control 16 seats to form a government.

Greenland’s premier and other cabinet members are chosen by the legislature after the government is formed, either by a party that gains a majority of seats or by a coalition.

Given the structure of the election, rallying votes hasn’t been easy for Marius Didriksen of Qaanaaq, a candidate for the new Naleraq party, who has been unable to campaign throughout Greenland.

That’s because Air Greenland only flies once a week to Qaanaaq from Nuuk — and the airfare to Nuuk, 1,600 kilometres away, is expensive.

The solution? Didriksen has turned to the social media platform Facebook, which has already proven useful to nearby Nunavut and Nunavik in other ways — both economic and social.

“I have to use Facebook, but it’s not everyone who uses Facebook. Of course, it is very annoying that I cannot travel, ” Didriksen told Sermitsiaq AG.

Among his party’s campaign platform promises, according to the circumpolar consultant group Polarisk’s recent update on the upcoming election: more social housing, investments in infrastructure, nationally-driven adjustments in food prices and improved child care centres in remote settlements.

Facebook is how candidate Marius Didriksen of Qaanaaq has campaigned during the lead-up to the Nov. 28 vote. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SERMITSIAQ/AG)
Facebook is how candidate Marius Didriksen of Qaanaaq has campaigned during the lead-up to the Nov. 28 vote. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SERMITSIAQ/AG)
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