Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 13, 2014 - 3:19 pm

Greenland election moves into its last two weeks

Nov. 13 party leaders debate to focus on economy, resource development — and honesty

JANE GEORGE
Protests in Nuuk triggered a Nov. 28 election in Greenland — with two weeks left before the vote, party leaders are campaigning hard for support among voters. (PHOTO BY LEIF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ)
Protests in Nuuk triggered a Nov. 28 election in Greenland — with two weeks left before the vote, party leaders are campaigning hard for support among voters. (PHOTO BY LEIF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ)

With two weeks left before Greenland’s Nov. 28 election, voters will get a chance to hear why party leaders want support for their platform and candidates in a Nov. 13 debate that will be broadcast live on television, radio and online.

Tourism and resource development — the largest potential sources of income in Greenland, are likely to be among the main topics of the debate, according to KNR, Greenland’s public broadcaster, which is hosting the evening debate.

And issues that KNR suggests could be debated Nov. 13 include: Greenland’s zero tolerance towards uranium mining, whether a new airport in southern Greenland would promote tourism, and how much emphasis should be placed on tourism in Greenland’s economy.

As of Nov. 13, 192 candidates from the country’s six parties and two independent candidates had put their names up for the Inatsisartut or legislative assembly election on Nov. 28.

The country’s newest party, the centrist Partii Naleraq, led by former Siumut party leader and premier Hans Enoksen, is running candidates in an island-wide election for the first time, with 33 candidates, while the social democratic Siumut party has produced 57 candidates, Sermitsiaq/AG, Greenland’s major newspaper, said Nov. 12.

Other parties running candidates include the liberal Atassut party with 31 candidates, social-liberal Demokratiit with 18, left-Green Inuit Ataqatigiit with 41, and the left-wing nationalist group Partii Inuit with 12, along with two independent candidates.

Three candidates dropped out earlier this month — and three others, all incumbent ministers, are now being investigated for possible misuse of public funds.

Their names may not appear on the final election list which will be issued Nov. 14, said Mikå Mered, managing partner and chief Greenland analyst at Polarisk Analytics, a U.K.-based group of consultants.

That may also impact on Nov. 13’s debate, Mered said.

“I’m afraid that tonight’s debate may well be polluted by recent revelations regarding the misuse of public funds (also known as “treasury overdrafts”) by three incumbent ministers who claim a seat in the new parliament: Siumut’s Vittus Qujaukitsoq and Martha Lund Olsen, and Atassut’s Steen Lynge.”

Misuse of public money forced the election after premier Aleqa Hammond used $20,000 to cover the cost of her family’s travel to the United States and eventually repaid the expenses in early September.

After widespread protests, Hammond was out of a job by Oct. 1, both as premier and Siumut party leader, and a general election had been called for Nov. 28 to chose a new government for Greenland.

“Former Premier Aleqa Hammond was prevented from running for re-election —  can Lynge, Olsen and Qujaukitsoq decently expect to be re-elected? Siumut’s new party leader (and former policeman) Kim Kielsen will most certainly be asked the question,” Mered said. “The party’s outcome on November 28th will depend a lot on the way Kielsen will deal with this new scandal.”

As for which party could win the Nov. 28 election — it’s complicated, said Mered.

Seats in the 31-seat Inatsisartut assembly are first distributed proportionally according to the percentage of votes received by the parties.

“Then, when we know how many seats each party is entitled to, candidates within each party are ranked according to the number of votes that each candidate has personally received,” Mered said.

“For instance: If Inuit Ataqatigiit was to reach 40 per cent [of the total vote], it would get 13 or 14 seats. So, it would be the 13 to 14 IA candidates who have received the most votes on their name who would get a parliamentary seat.”

The party or parties who will form the government are those who manage to reach 16 seats, Mered said.

But if a party gets 40 per cent of the vote, but fails to find a coalition partner, then it would not form the new government as all the minority parties altogether would account for 60 per cent of the votes and seats.

When this arises, the government is basically composed of every party but the leading party — a situation that could never occur in Nunavut, where there are no political parties represented in the territorial legislature.

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

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