Daily Parse | Burned by their experiences playing second-fiddle in government, Greenland’s second and third largest parties opt for the opposition
Being the junior partner in a government led by Siumut, which was the largest vote-getter in Greenland’s general election on April 24, is a dangerous occupation. Demokraatit, a centre-right party, suffered badly amongst voters during its 2014-2016 stint in the Siumut-led cabinet, and was eventually booted during a mid-term reshuffle. Along the way, its leader, Andreas Uldum (pictured, above left), resigned from politics after the pressure of being vice-premier became too great.
The unity coalition that the reshuffle created lasted a year and a half, officially coming to an end last week when IA, the country’s second largest party, broke with Siumut, and announced it would go into opposition.
In hindsight, this only makes sense. Most of the votes they lost in the election went to a resurgent Demokraatit, but being in government almost certainly cost them, too.
The premier, Kim Kielsen (pictured, above right), probably won the election back in 2016 when he invited IA into a coalition, together with Partii Naleraq. IA may or may not have seen that coming, but the tradeoff was that they proved to themselves and to voters that they could govern. Come the next election, they will be a much stronger contender coming from the opposition.
Before IA made its decision on Thursday, it gave Mr Kielsen a list of conditions he needed to accept if the part was to continue in government. This left two possible outcomes: either they would get their way, or they would be able to claim they were forced into opposition. Given that it was unlikely Mr Kielsen would accept them, their preference appears have been to lead the opposition rather than play second-fiddle in the government.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the government, made up of Siumut, Partii Naleraq, Atassut and Nunatta Qitornai, only has a one-seat majority, and that there is a tendency for members of Inatsisartut, the national assembly, to switch parties. It will only take one defector to give IA’s shadow government a majority.
Even if no defector materialises (or none can be seduced), IA can use being in the opposition to put themselves in a more advantageous position ahead of the next election. There are some tough decisions that need to be made coming up that IA might do well to distance themselves from.
As for the other parties and their possible motivations:
Partii Naleraq: Hans Enoksen founded the party in order to stick up for fishermen. With the fisheries reform coming up, wild horses couldn’t have pulled them out of the coalition. This may explain why they’ve joined the government despite not agreeing with Siumut about uranium mining. In 2014, Partii Naleraq’s opposition to uranium mining, the only significant difference between the two parties, kept them from joining the the government. Partii Naleraq has also agreed to support a plan to build three new airports. During the election, Mr Enoksen questioned the economics of he the decision. He’s been made speaker for his support, but it would seem that fisheries are his real prize.
Nunatta Qitornai: Wise move on both sides. Nunatta Qitornai only has one seat, and would have little to no influence in opposition. Mr Kielsen gets its seat and a majority, and he keeps a pesky rival close at hand. You’ll remember that Vittus Qujaukitsoq challenged Mr Kielsen for the party leadership this summer. Mr Kielsen won handily, but Mr Qujaukitsoq is still a bulldog that his former boss would prefer to have on a leash.
Aleqa Hammond, a former premier for Siumut, lost badly as a Nunatta Qitornai candidate, but it would be dangerous to count her out. If she makes yet another comeback, Siumut benefits as well, if they two parties are allies. Also, Ms Hammond sits in the Danish national assembly. When Siumut kicked her out of the party, she kept the seat, meaning Siumut lost their representative in Copenhagen. This gets it halfway back.
Also, Partii Naleraq and Nunatta Qitornai are both Siumut splinter groups. Their establishment hurts Siumut most. Having them in government prevents them from scoring cheap points in opposition and makes it possible for Mr Kielsen to either run them out of business or to rehabilitate them into Siumut members in good standing at some point.
Atassut: Was expected to be kingmaker after the election results became clear. They were a part of Mr Kielsen’s first cabinet, and taking his offer to do so again gives them influence far beyond their what their two seats merit.
Demokraatit: Has six seats to Siumut’s nine and IA’s eight. This makes them a well defined third pole that clearly stands apart from Siumut and IA, which resemble each other. They will be a second-tier party until they win the premiership, but after running a very sober campaign, and having held the vice-premiership, there is clearly a long, long way from them down to Partii Naleraq or Nunatta Qitornai.
They are closer to Siumut than IA, but, for now, their opponent’s opponent is their ally.
Suleqatigiissitsisut: No surprise they will be in opposition, since they announced right after the election they had no intention of going into government. As a protest party mainly interested in keeping close ties with Denmark, they will do best standing on the sidelines sniping for now. If Siumut loses the majority, they might try to convince Suleqatigiissitsisut’s sole member to switch sides. That, however, is a siren song it would do well to turn a deaf ear to.
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Official website of Greenland’s election commission
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