Greenland calls election amid expenses scandal

Greenlanders will go to the polls in November after the PM's spending scandal creates political chaos.

Greenland calls election amid expenses scandal
Aleqa Hammond's spending scandal has effectively sunk her government. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
Greenland's government has called an election for November 28 after an expenses scandal prompted Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond to step down as leader of her party.
Acting Prime Minister Kim Kielsen made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday evening shortly after Hammond resigned as leader of the Siumut party.
Hammond's resignation came after a government coalition partner withdrew and two ministers from her own party quit over her alleged  misuse of 106,363 kroner (14,300 euros, $18,000) of public funds.
"We cannot achieve a majority in Inatsisartut (parliament) and there must be if there is to be a government," Kielsen said in a statement.
On Tuesday Hammond was granted temporary leave from her ministerial duties by lawmakers while she is being investigated, but only after narrowly escaping a vote of no confidence.
One of the ministers who stepped down was the industry and mineral resources minister, Jens-Erik Kirkegaard, who oversaw the nascent mining industry that Greenland — which is dependent on Denmark for its foreign policy and defence — hopes will one day enable it to become fully independent.
Hammond "should take the natural consequences of her actions and step down," Kirkegaard wrote in a joint statement with the education and culture minister, Nick Nielsen, on the Greenland home rule government's website.
Both are from Hammond's social democratic Siumut party.
The liberal Atassut party, without which the government lacks a parliamentary majority, said it would also leave the coalition and called for fresh elections.
Earlier in the day, the party's health and infrastructure minister, Steen Lynge, announced his resignation.
"My desire to withdraw from Naalakkersuisut (government) has been based on my personal values," he wrote in a statement.
A report from the Nuuk parliament's audit committee on Friday said the prime minister had used government money to pay for airline tickets for herself and hotel costs for her family. After receiving several reminders since April last year, Hammond repaid the full amount last month.
Greenland is largely self-governed, but still remains in the shadow of its former colonial power Denmark. The vast Arctic territory has a population of just 57,000.
Siumut won the March 2013 election after pledging to change the royalties system for foreign mining companies wanting to extract rare earth and other raw materials from the potentially rich Greenland underground.
Denmark currently provides 3.2 billion kroner a year in subsidies to Greenland under an autonomy agreement that gives the country full control of its natural resources.

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Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

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