Polls close in Greenland election

Early results Wednesday suggested a possible power shift in Greenland’s last parliamentary election before the residents of the ice-capped island assume greater autonomy from Denmark.

Polls before the vote suggested the Social Democratic Siumut Party could be ousted after 30 years in power in a vote focusing on corruption allegations and political wrangling.

The first official election results from small hamlets on the mostly Inuit island showed the left-wing opposition Inuit Ataqatigiit getting more support than Siumut, although it was unlikely either party would get an outright majority.

Premier Hans Enoksen called the snap election after Greenlanders decided in a November referendum to loosen ties with Denmark, which has controlled the giant island since the 18th century.

The next government will be the first to exercise the expanded home rule, which is seen as a step toward eventual independence. The new arrangement, which takes effect on June 21, will make Greenlandic, an Inuit tongue, the official language and gradually shift control over the local police force, courts and the coast guard to Greenland’s government.

The plan also sets out new rules for splitting potential oil revenue with Denmark — a key issue in a region where new natural resources could be exposed by melting sea ice and glaciers. Talks with Denmark on implementing the program are set to begin later this month.

Copenhagen, whose subsidies account for two-thirds of the island’s economy, will still control defense and foreign policy and Danish figurehead monarch Queen Margrethe remains the head of state.

Nearly 39,000 people were eligible to vote in the election, which has been dominated by allegations of nepotism and misuse of public funds, said Pia Vedel Ankersen, a lecturer at the University of Greenland, Imatusarfik.

Several politicians, including top Siumut members, have been found guilty of using public money for private uses. Former Housing Minister Jens Napaattooq was convicted of spending 128,366 kroner ($24,000) in taxpayer money on personal dinners, trips and alcohol, and was sentenced to four months in prison.

The ruling Siumut Party is also being hurt by an internal power struggle, with Alega Hammond, a former finance minister, trying to oust Enoksen as party leader.

Six parties are vying for the 31 seats in the legislature.

Greenland became a colony of Denmark in 1775, and was a Danish province from 1953-1979.



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