With 36.6 percent of the vote, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) surpassed Siumut, a social democratic party that has dominated politics in Danish territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.
“Thank you to the people who trusted us to work with the people at the center for the next four years,” AI leader Mute Egede said on KNR public television after the results were announced.
IA, which was previously in opposition, is expected to win 12 of 31 seats in the Inatsisartut, the local parliament, up from eight today.
But without an absolute majority, the most likely scenario is that IA will join forces with smaller parties to form a coalition.
Siumut, who led the outgoing government, was weakened in part by infighting. He obtained 29.4 percent of the votes, still two percentage points more than his results in the 2018 elections.
The dividing line between the two sides was the authorization of a controversial giant uranium and rare earth mining project, which is currently the subject of public hearings.
The Kuannersuit deposit, in the south of the island, is considered one of the richest in uranium and rare earth minerals in the world, a group of 17 metals that are used as components in everything from smartphones to electric cars and weapons. .
IA has called for a moratorium on uranium mining, which would effectively halt the project.
The splits over Kuannersuit originally triggered snap elections in the territory after one of the smaller parties left Siumut’s ruling coalition.
Opponents say the project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has too many environmental risks, including radioactive waste.
Egede told KNR that he would immediately begin discussions to “explore different forms of cooperation” before forming a coalition government.
The 34-year-old, a member of the Inatsisartut since 2015, took the reins of the green left party just over two years ago.
Snow fell on the capital, Nuuk, as voters lined up at polling stations on Tuesday, with approximately 40,000 people eligible to vote in the legislative elections.
Face masks were given to voters entering a Nuuk polling station. There have only been a total of 31 confirmed Covid-19 cases and no deaths in the isolated territory.
“I am voting for a party that says no to uranium,” Henrik Jensen, 40, told AFP as he left his polling station.
Polling stations closed at 8pm across Greenland, but in Nuuk officials decided to keep the doors open a bit longer, as latecomers still lined up outside in the early evening.
Greenland’s geostrategic location and huge mineral reserves have sparked international interest.
The election campaign for all 31 seats in parliament has also focused on fishing, the main engine of Greenland’s economy.
And at a time when young Greenlanders are reconnecting with their Inuit roots and questioning their Danish colonial heritage, social issues and cultural identity have also been part of the debate.
A strong local economy is crucial if the island is to win full independence from Copenhagen one day.
Denmark, which is not opposed to the independence of Nuuk, gives the island annual subsidies of around 526 million euros, which represents around a third of its budget.
Greenland plans to develop its fishing, mining and tourism sectors, as well as agriculture in the southern part of the island, which is ice-free throughout the year.
For Marc Jacobsen, an Arctic specialist at the University of Cambridge, keeping the option of large-scale mining open is the reason why Greenland has not signed the Paris climate agreement.
The treaty allows states to decide their own measures to achieve the common goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.
“Signing the Paris Agreement would not allow them to develop any large mining projects,” Jacobsen said.
And yet the Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet since the 1990s, dramatically affecting the traditional way of life of the Inuit, who make up more than 90 percent of the population of Greenland
IA has pledged to sign the Paris Agreement if it comes to power.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism