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Opposition wins Greenland vote on calls for mining tax

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greenland's social democratic Siumut party on Wednesday emerged the victor of the territory's elections, with leader Aleqa Hammond set to become its first woman prime minister after vowing to tax foreign mining companies.

"There was dissatisfaction with the leadership," Hammond told the online edition of weekly newspaper Sermitsiaq.

"Too much secrecy surrounding mining projects and problems in the fishery sector, as well as a lack of construction outside Nuuk, determined the outcome."

Official results released Wednesday gave Hammond's Siumut 42.8 percent of the vote compared to 26.5 percent at the last election four years ago. Leftwing incumbent Kuupik Kleist's Inuit Ataqatigiit took 34.4 percent compared to 43.7 percent at the last election.

Official turnout figures for the 40,000 electorate on the world's largest island were not immediately available.

Hammond only has to choose one other smaller party for a majority coalition. Negotiations for a new government are expected to take several days.

"We have taken difficult decisions in fisheries, raised rents to be able to afford the necessary renovations, and high unemployment has probably also played a role," Kleist said of the defeat.

Siumut, which fought its election campaign mainly on changing royalty conditions for foreign mining companies wanting to extract rare earth and other raw materials from the potentially rich Greenland underground, is also looking for independence from Denmark for the autonomous territory.

Denmark currently provides 3.2 billion kroner (429 million euros, $559 million) per year in subsidies to Greenland under an autonomy agreement that gives the country full control of its natural resources, while Denmark maintains control of foreign policy and defence.

In particular, the party is looking to introduce immediate royalty payments for mining companies, rather than the Inuit Ataqatigiit coalition's plans to allow companies to retrieve a large part of their initial investments before having to pay royalties.

Although no mining companies have yet officially sought licences for new mining ventures, recent months have seen discussions with a Chinese-owned company for a mining operation that would bring some 2,000 Chinese miners to the territory.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130313/opposition-wins-greenland-vote-calls-mining-tax