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Greenland Opposition Wins Amid Calls for Resource Taxation

Social Democrat Siumut Party Leader Aleqa Hammond
Social Democrat Siumut party leader Aleqa Hammond holds her ballot paper for the general elections in Nuuk, Greenland. Photographer: Ulrik Bang/AFP/Getty Images

Greenlanders voted to oust the government, handing power to an opposition that has called for higher taxes and more oversight over mining companies and oil explorers seeking to tap the Arctic island’s natural resources.

The opposition Social Democrat Siumut party won 42.8 percent of the vote, up from 26.5 percent in 2009, according to results on the government election website. It will now seek to form a coalition after winning 14 of the 31 seats in the Nuuk home rule parliament. The ruling socialist Inuit Ataqatigiit party got 34.4 percent, down from 43.7 percent, as 74 percent of the island’s 40,588 registered voters cast their ballot.

“There was dissatisfaction with the current style of leadership,” Siumut leader Aleqa Hammond said after yesterday’s victory, according to newspaper Sermitsiaq. “There has been a great lack of transparency when it comes to natural resource projects, problems for the fishing industry and a lack of construction outside of Nuuk.”

Hammond has campaigned to take royalties from foreign companies as soon as they start operations on the island while current IA Prime Minister Kuupik Vandersee Kleist has favored waiting to tax mining companies until exploration becomes profitable.

Natural Wealth

The world’s most scarcely populated nation is trying to attract funds to help harness its energy and mineral wealth as interest from China and Australia reignites its campaign to end almost 200 years of Danish colonial rule. Greenland, which gets about half its exports from shrimp, is also propped up by about $600 million in annual subsidies from the government in Copenhagen.

A vote for Kleist was a vote for mining projects to go ahead “and build a whole new type of economy,” said Maria Ackren, an associate professor in political science at the University of Greenland in Nuuk. “IA voters realize developing natural resources must be done together with Denmark.”

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