Sunday, delegates from Siumut, the lead party in Greenland’s governing coalition, elected Erik Jensen, 45, as the party’s new chairman. Jensen is likely to replace his predecessor, Kim Kielsen, also as head of Naalakkersuisut, Greenland’s Self Rule government.
Erik Jensen won the party election with 39 votes against Kielsen’s 32. Shortly after being elected, Jensen said he would continue the quest for Greenland’s independence from Denmark and pursue in principle trade with all willing nations, including both the US and China.
He said he aimed to pursue independence from Denmark more energetically than has been customary through Kielsen’s six years as party chairman.
“That was in my election program. We are on the path towards independence. That is what provides warmth in any heart in Greenland. We aim to take over more areas of responsibility from Denmark,” he said.
Free to take on more
More specifically, he explained that he would like to see Greenland take over from Denmark responsibility firstly for Greenland’s veterinary control, immigration, shipping and also increased responsibility for foreign policy matters.
All in order to secure increased revenues, employment and growth in Greenland. According to Greenland’s current arrangements with Denmark, Greenland is free to take over many of the responsibilities for Greenland’s administration that are still handled by Denmark, as long as Nuuk also takes over the costs involved.
Reminded of US president Donald Trump’s August 2019 offer to buy Greenland, he reiterated the initial response from Greenland’s Selfrule Authority:
“We are open for business, but not for sale”.
He welcomed the opportunities for increased trade and other cooperation embedded in the increased US interest in Greenland, but he also stressed his willingness to trade with any nation, including China, if conditions are right:
“Greenland wants to cooperate with nations all over the world, whether they are blue, yellow or red, as long as they observe the law, relevant conventions and human rights,” he said.
This has been also the policy during Kielsen’s leadership.
We are open for business, but not for sale.
Transition must wait
Kim Kielsen may in principle remain head of Naalakkersuisut, Greenland’s government. Greenland’s executive is appointed by Intasisartut, Greenland’s parliament, and there is no legal requirement that the head of the government must also be a party leader.
Erik Jensen Sunday told the media that he has no intention of forcing a transition, but many observers here predicted that Kim Kielsen may step down relatively soon, with Erik Jensen as his obvious replacement.
Siumut has led all but one government in Greenland since the formation of Greenland’s parliamentary system in 1979, and only once, from 1988 to 1991, has a Siumut government been led by other than the party’s chairman.
Months of turmoil
Greenland’s parliament, which is to appoint any new government, ended its fall session on Friday and is not presently scheduled to meet again until the spring, which may prolong the transition.
The change of chairman comes after months of increasing turmoil within the Siumut party. Until November 2019, Erik Jensen was a part of Kim Kielsens government, but stepped down woving to dethrone Kielsen and replace him.
Sunday, as another of Kielsen’s critics, Vivian Motzfeldt, was elected Siumut’s deputy chairman, Erik Jensen took Motzfeldt for an improvised waltz in front of cheering delegates, celebrating what several party sources said was the successful end of a long and deliberate effort by key party members to renew Greenland’s most powerful political movement.
Almost all members of the party’s internal main board were also replaced by Erik Jensen supporters.
Erik Jensen has worked much of his adult life as an administrator with INI, Greenland’s publicly owned housing facility. He is a former member of the municipal council in Sisimiut, Greenland’s second largest city, where he still lives. He is married and has three daughters.