Greenland appears headed for new election, opposition claims majority

Greenland appears headed for new election, opposition claims majority
A picture taken on May 27, 2014 shows Aleqa Hammond, Prime minister of Greenland talking to journalists at the Hof Center during the Nordic Prime Minister Meeting in Akureyri.

COPENHAGEN - The leader of Greenland's top opposition party said on Wednesday enough parliamentarians have crossed over to her side to bring about fresh elections after the prime minister took a leave of absence in a dispute over her use of public finances.

The political turmoil is likely to paralyse the government at a critical juncture as international companies such as London Mining Plc (LOND.L) and Greenland Minerals and Energy (GGG.AX) are considering opening iron ore and rare earth mines.

Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond, in power since April 2013, escaped a no-confidence vote on Tuesday but stepped down temporarily until the end of an investigation into her spending of public money on hotels and flights.

The opposition kept up pressure on Wednesday and four ministers in total stepped down from the government, including two from Hammond's Siumut party and two from junior coalition partner Atassut.

Atassut had bolted to the opposition, according to Greenlandic media and Sara Olsvig, leader of the largest opposition party, the Inuit Ataqatigiit.

Olsvig said thanks to Atassut's defection, her bloc has a majority of 17 votes of the 31 in total.

Greenlandic media reported that acting premier Kim Kielsen had called for an election on Nov 28 and parliament was to hold a vote on that proposal at 2300 GMT, assembly chairman Lars-Emil Johansen told Reuters.

Horsetrading

Olsvig said political horsetrading had dominated the day in the 31-member assembly.

"During the day we heard different stances from the former coalition party Atassut on how they were dealing with this issue - did they want an election or not?" she told Reuters by telephone from Greenland's capital Nuuk.

"They did want a new election. So, we wrote a formal letter to the speaker of parliament saying we, as a majority in parliament, wanted an extraordinary meeting to vote on this."

Greenlandic media said Hammond had stepped down as leader of the Siumut party but her status in government was unclear.

"When they (Siumut) invited us to negotiate a new coalition, my answer was that I didn't know who their leader was or who the premier was," Olsvig said.

But she said a coalition with Siumut was out of the question also due to their "bad governance".

Greenland is a self-ruling country within the Kingdom of Denmark and has a population of about 56,000 people.

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