Mining, independence at stake as Greenland goes to the polls

Fri Nov 28, 2014 4:45am EST
 
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By Katja Vahl and Sabina Zawadzki

NUUK/COPENHAGEN Nov 28 (Reuters) - Greenlanders go to the polls on Friday with hopes for a mineral-rich independence from Denmark foundering on the reality of a tiny, shrinking economy.

The fall of premier Aleqa Hammond last month in an expense scandal has muted the nationalist rhetoric that promised independence based on wealth from some of the largest mineral deposits on earth.

With major mining projects in limbo due to low commodity prices, regulatory instability and the bankruptcy of the owner of the most promising prospect in the country, politicians of all hues have focused on the ailing subsidised economy.

The campaign appears neck and neck. For weeks, polls showed opposition party Inuit Ataqatigiit, led by 36-year-old Sara Olsvig, would win for only the second time since 1979.

But the ruling Siumut party, now led by former policeman Kim Kielsen, is managing to distance itself from former premier Hammond's expenses scandal. At least one poll in the past week shows Kielsen in the lead.

"Hammond accentuated all the differences between Denmark and Greenland. The differences have not disappeared but the emphasis will now be on the economy, no matter who wins," said Martin Breum, a Danish journalist and author of a book on Greenland.

Greenland, whose capital Nuuk is closer to New York than Copenhagen, became a Danish colony in the early 19th century but has been gradually gaining its own powers since World War Two.

It is more than three times larger that the U.S. state of Texas, but with a population of just 56,000 is the most sparsely nation on earth.   Continued...