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Greenland brings environmental left to power, opposed to controversial mining project


Greenland brought to power a left-wing green party after its parliamentary elections, according to results released on Wednesday. A turning point that sounds the death knell for a controversial project to mine rare earths and uranium which was at the heart of the campaign in the Danish autonomous territory of the Arctic.

With 36.6% of the vote, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), until now in the opposition, won by more than 2,000 votes against Siumut, a social democratic formation that has dominated Greenlandic political life since autonomy of 1979. Favorable to the mine, the latter headed the outgoing local government.

According to projections based on the final results, announced late at night in Greenland, IA will win twelve of the 31 seats in Inatsisartut, the local parliament, against eight so far. After a victory in 2009, this is only the second time that the party dethrones Siumut from its rank as the first party of Greenland, an immense territory only populated by 56,000 inhabitants, including some 41,000 voters.

Towards a government coalition

Siumut, in decline in recent years and weakened by fratricidal quarrels, nevertheless achieves a better score than expected by the polls. With 29.4% of the vote, he won more than two points compared to the last ballot and should win an additional chair, with ten seats.

Without an absolute majority, the most likely scenario is now for IA to ally with one or two small parties to form a government coalition.

After thanking voters for the victory during a televised debate bringing together party leaders after the results, its leader Mute Egede announced that he would immediately start discussions to “study the different forms of cooperation” before the formation of the party. ‘a government coalition.

Openly opposed to the exploitation of the uranium and rare earths deposit of Kuannarsuit at the southern tip of the territory, IA intends to stop the project which is at the origin of the early holding of the poll, at the end of a crisis. politics in February.

Prime Minister at 34

“The message from voters is very clear: they will not sacrifice the environment in the service of the economy,” observes Mikaa Mered, an academic specialist in poles at Sciences Po Paris. IA has also promised to sign the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few not to have ratified.

Led by an Australian group with Chinese capital, Greenland Minerals, the Kuannarsuit mining project presents too high environmental risks, in particular radioactive waste, according to its opponents. “Public health is the most important thing. We know that the project will have consequences on the environment, ”pleaded Mute Egede, during the last televised debate Monday evening.

I might be young, but it’s also my strength

At 34, this deputy who has sat in Inatsisartut since 2015 took the reins of the left-green formation a little over two years ago. He is expected to become the youngest prime minister in the world. “I may be young, but it is also my strength,” he said this Wednesday morning.

In Narsaq, a village of a thousand inhabitants near which the Kuannarsuit deposit is located at the southern tip of Greenland, IA achieved a triumphant score of 67.7% of the vote. According to a poll published Monday, 63% of Greenlanders are against this mining project, considered one of the most important deposits in the world for rare earths and located in the middle of the only agricultural land in the territory. But on mining in general the trend is the opposite (52% for, 29% against).

Since 2009, the gigantic ice-covered island has managed its natural resources itself, but its budget is only viable thanks to contributions from Denmark, a country which controls diplomacy, defense and currency. Copenhagen, which pays more than 520 million euros per year to the Greenlandic government, that is to say a third of its total budget, would cut it off if the territory decided to become independent, a possibility recognized by the Danish constitution. In recent years, Nuuk has therefore sought to diversify its own income, particularly with fishing, which represents 90% of its exports, mining projects and tourism.

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