Greenland’s main opposition party, which is against an international mining project involving uranium and other metals on the Arctic island, has emerged as the biggest party after winning more than a third of votes in an early parliamentary election.
The left-leaning Community of the People party (Inuit Ataqatigiit) secured 37% of the votes, entitling it to 12 seats in the Greenlandic national assembly, the 31-seat Inatsisartut.
Its biggest rival, the ruling centre-left Forward (Siumut) party, took second spot with 29% of the votes, winning 10 seats.
In a victory speech, Múte Bourup Egede, the chair of Community of the People, pointed to themes that made his party, running on a strong environmental agenda, stand out among voters.
“There are two issues that have been important in this election campaign. People’s living conditions is one. And then there is our health and the environment,” said Egede, a 34-year-old native of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, reported the Greenlandic public broadcaster, KNR.
At the heart of the election was a proposed international mining project by Greenland Minerals, an Australia-based company with Chinese ownership, which is seeking a licence to operate the Kvanefjeld mine in southern Greenland.
Apart from uranium, estimates show the Kvanefjeld mine could hold the largest deposit of rare-earth metals outside China (which accounts for more than 90% of global production). The calculation has led to international interest in Greenland’s natural resources.
The election result creates a power shift and an end to Forward’s almost continual hold on power at the top of politics in Greenland since 1979. Erik Jensen, the chair of Forward, conceded the party’s defeat and congratulated Egede and his party on winning the election.
“We congratulate the Inuit Ataqatigiit on the election. We are now excited about what the [coalition] negotiations will bring in the coming days,” Jensen said in a statement, as quoted by the Danish broadcaster TV2.
While the Forward party has taken a cautiously positive stance on the mining project, Egede reiterated on Wednesday his party’s opposition to the project and called for the scheme to be stopped for environmental reasons. Greenland is a self-governing Danish territory.
“We must listen to the voters who are worried. We say no to uranium mining,” Egede said in a statement to KNR.
Without an absolute majority in parliament, the Community of the People’s party is now likely to seek to form a coalition with a group of smaller parties rather than with Forward.