On Tuesday, Greenland’s new government coalition and the other parliamentarians took seat in Inatsisartut. Following the traditional procession from the house of Hans Egede (the Danish-Norwegian missionary who colonized Greenland in 1721) to the legislative assembly via a stop at Our Saviour’s Church, a new four-year term with Siumut (meaning: forward) at the helm began.
On top of Premier Kielsen’s to-do list are a new fisheries act, new ambitious infrastructure projects and improvements of the population’s living conditions through more education, better social work and economic incentives for elders who wish to keep working. Further down the list is ‘independence’.
Siumut’s new government quartet
Siumut, Partii Naleraq, Atassut and Nunatta Qitornai are the four parties making up the new government coalition occupying 16 out of 31 seats in the legislative assembly; the smallest possible majority. The two latter replaced Inuit Ataqatigiit whose position on fisheries – which accounts for 90 percent of Greenland’s export – differs too much to allowing a continuation of the 2016-2018 coalition.
The new coalition agreement bears witness to the impression that Siumut sets the course for the government quartet. As reported by Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, KNR, most of it is direct copy-paste from Siumut’s election manifesto – including typos.
One of the ambitions of the agreement which has spurred public debate is the wish to replace Danish with English as the primary foreign language for schoolchildren, as a step towards enhancing Greenland’s international position – while loosening the ties to Denmark. In that light, it is worth noting that the agreement is currently only available in Greenlandic and Danish.
‘Independence!’ unites; ‘when?’ divides
While all parties except one agree that state-formation is the ultimate goal for Greenland, the speed towards the finishing line is one of the issues dividing both the parliamentarians and the members of cabinet. Last summer, this was also one of the core questions in the contested election between Kim Kielsen and Vittus Qujaukitsoq for the chairmanship of Siumut.
While Kielsen is in favor of a gradual and slower transition, Quajukitsoq pleads for a quick secession from the Danish Realm even though it may cause worse living conditions when the annual block grant of 3.7 billion DKK – 50 percent of the provincial treasury’s annual income – is phased out. A position shared by Partii Naleraq, which derived from Siumut in 2014.
Atassut, the fourth party in the government quartet, was established in 1978 in opposition to the idea of more Greenlandic self-determination, but today they are in favor of a moderate transition.
Old enemies join hands
After losing the Siumut contested election, Qujaukitsoq formed Nunatta Qitornai, which Aleqa Hammond – former Premier and prominent separatist advocate – recently joined. During the past years, she has been Siumut’s biggest vote catcher, but after a spending scandal in 2014 and a subsequent misuse of an official credit card for personal expenses, she was expelled from Siumut in 2016.
Both are now back in Greenland’s parliament; Qujaukitsoq as Naalakkersuisoq (Minister) for Natural Resources, Labor, Independence and Constitutional Issues, and Hammond as parliament substitute for Qujaukitsoq, who is on leave of absence while in cabinet. Moreover, she has also been appointed chairman of the important Foreign and Security Policy Committee.
On Tuesday, Kim Kielsen welcomed them with smiles and warm hugs, which indicate that he may have listened to the old proverb: "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer". In another and more positive perspective, it could also simply be a gesture to show that the hatchet is buried and it’s time to move forward together, which reflects the Greenlandic tradition of separating politics from personal disagreements, and not hold grudges.
Greenland’s new ministers by party affiliation:
- Kim Kielsen: Premier, and responsible for Environment and Nature.
- Simon Simonsen: Housing and Infrastructure. Also Vice-Premier.
- Erik Jensen: Fishery, Hunting and Agriculture.
- Vivian Motzfeldt: Education, Culture, Church and Foreign Affairs.
- Doris Jensen: Health and Research.
- Aqqalu Jerimiassen: Commerce and Energy.
- Vittus Qujaukitsoq: Natural Resources, Labor, Independence and Constitutional Issues.
- Pele Broberg: Finance and Taxation
- Anthon Frederiksen: Justice, Social and Family Affairs.