Greenlanders vote in election dominated by resources

Greenland voted Tuesday in an election pitting incumbent Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist against a Social Democratic hopeful, with the exploitation of the country's vast natural resources a key issue.

The island's 40,000 voters headed to polling stations in overcast and snowy skies, with temperatures ranging from one to minus 11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit).

The election for 31 seats of the local legislature, called the Inatsisartut, is forecast to be tight and comes at a crossroads for the autonomous territory, which falls under Denmark, as it prepares to open its untapped raw material wealth to the outside world.

Kleist’s leftwing Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) coalition and the Social Democratic Siumut party agree that the territory's natural resources should be exploited but differ over how this should be done.

Kleist is keen to attract foreign investment to the potentially mineral-rich country, recently pushing through legislation known as the "Large-Scale" law which gives special rights to foreign companies investing more than five billion kroner (670 million euros, $873 million) in big mining projects.

But his rival, the Siumut's Aleqa Hammond, says the country needs to ensure it benefits from government revenue raised from natural resources that include rare earth minerals, uranium and oil.

"This is a difficult election. On the one side we have to secure a responsible economic policy, and on the other make sure to include a large part of the population that feels it is outside influence," the editorial of the weekly Sermitsiaq said.

"Opposition against the current coalition is due to too many without work, too many without an education," it added.

The election results were expected early Wednesday.