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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 17:26 GMT
Greenland voters root for independence
Greenland's parliament
Greenland's independence is back on the agenda
Parties advocating greater independence have emerged as the winners of Greenland's general elections.

The ruling Siumut party and Inuit Atagatigiit (Inuit Brotherhood) got more than 50% of the vote, and will have a majority in the parliament of the sparsely-populated Arctic island governed by Denmark if they can agree to work together.

Election results
Siumut: 29.3%, 10 seats
Inuit Brotherhood: 25.8%, 8 seats
Atassut: 20.9%, 5 seats
Correspondents say the parties are also likely to demand the renegotiation of an agreement on American bases on the island.

A significant impact was also made by the Democrats, a new party that wants to focus on improving Greenland's economy before any moves towards independence.

Siumut, which has been in power for the past 23 years, is thought to favour the Inuit Brotherhood to form a coalition government.

"The Siumut will lead coalition negotiations, but it is difficult to say in which direction," a government official told BBC News Online.

"The new leader, Hans Enoksen, is pro-independence, so may co-operate with the Inuit Brotherhood, but scandals over government salaries have come between the two parties.

"The founder of the Democrats [Per Berthelsen] has been excluded from the Siumut, although he has support from other people in the party. The Democrats say they will form an alliance with anyone," he added.

Greenland's premier, Jonathan Motzfeldt
Premier Motzfeldt may try to form a new government
The Inuit Brotherhood wants a 2005 referendum to determine what level of independence Greenland should seek from Denmark.

It was unclear who would become Greenland's new head of state after the vote for the 31-seat parliament.

Premier Jonathan Motzfeldt has not stepped down and could form a new government, although his Siumut party is divided on the independence issue.

Turnout of Greenland's 39,000 eligible voters was put at 75%, down slightly from 1999's election.

Reform v autonomy

All parties broadly want independence but differ on whether or not the country's economic problems should be solved first, correspondents say.

Greenland, which has a cradle-to-grave system of social benefits, receives $375m annually from Denmark.

Pro-independence politicians say that by increasing the rent Greenland charges the United States for its military base at Thule, in the north-west, Greenlanders can raise funds needed to operate independently of Denmark.

The base is thought to be a lynchpin in US plans to increase its ballistic missile defence shield which has led to concern that Greenland will be in the firing line in any future conflict.

Other politicians say Greenland's social and economic problems need to be addressed before the independence issue.

Classified as a self-governing dependency, Greenland has been ruled since 1721 by the Danes, who still control its foreign affairs.

See also:

30 May 02 | Country profiles
09 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
15 Jul 00 | Europe
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