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2022 DANISH ELECTION

Why Faroe Islands and Greenland could decide Danish election result

Denmark’s election on November 1st could conceivably be settled by four parliamentary seats allocated to representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Why Faroe Islands and Greenland could decide Danish election result
Could the decisive votes in the Danish election be cast in the Faroe Islands? Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Under Denmark’s constitution, four seats in parliament or “North Atlantic mandates” as they are termed in Danish politics are awarded to parties from the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Both are autonomous territories within of the Kingdom of Denmark and have their own parliaments. Before they became autonomous in the 20th century, they were governed from Copenhagen – hence the constitutional need for their representation in parliament.

Because the parliament has a total of 179 seats, 90 are required for a party (in practice, a faction of allied parties under the ‘bloc’ system) to win a majority and form government.

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Usually, the four North Atlantic seats are not required to take one side or the other over the threshold of 90 seats needed to win an election.

For example, the 2019 election saw four red bloc parties secure 91 seats and therefore the parliamentary majority needed to back an agreement that installed Mette Frederiksen as Prime Minister.

But if the red and blue blocs both fall slightly short of 90 seats, the North Atlantic seats – and the parties that win them in the Faroes and Greenland – can come into play.

The most recent poll produces this exact situation because it gives the ‘red bloc’ 87 seats with 71 seats to the opposing ‘blue bloc’.

The centrist Moderate party, which has not aligned itself to either side, under former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen would get 17 seats if the poll was born out in the election itself.

If the Moderates decided to work with the blue bloc, each side would still be short of 90 seats at 87 and 88 for the red and blue sides respectively.

This would mean the North Atlantic parties would need to join an agreement to put a government in place.

The situation is unusual but has occurred before – most recently at the 1998 election, which was famously decided by 176 votes on the Faroe Islands.

Five of the last six elections in Denmark have seen parties aligned with the Danish ‘red’ bloc take three of the four North Atlantic mandates, with the exception being 2015, when all four went to red parties.

Parties from the Faroe Islands and Greenland tend to back the bloc that aligns most closely with their own politics.

“The Faroe Islands and Denmark have separate economies. The burdens I as a member of parliament can place on Danish voters would have no impact on my voters. And the Danish voters cannot replace me. They do not have access to my place at Christiansborg,” Sjúrður Skaale, a current member of the Danish parliament with the Faroese Social Democratic Party, wrote in a column in media Altinget in January this year.

Skaale said he would prefer North Atlantic seats not to be decisive, despite Social Democratic parties from the Faroe Islands potentially being able to tip the balance in favour of a Social Democratic Danish government in a knife edge election.

“Personally, I hope the [current] government can continue. But it would be completely wrong – verging on undemocratic – if it happened on the basis outlined,” he wrote.

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GREENLAND

Greenland temperatures warmest ‘in 1,000 years’

Temperatures in parts of Greenland are warmer than they have been in 1,000 years, the co-author of a study that reconstructed conditions by drilling deep into the ice sheet told AFP on Friday.

Greenland temperatures warmest 'in 1,000 years'

“This confirms the bad news that we know already unfortunately … (It is) clear that we need to get this warming under control in order to stop the melting of the Greenlandic ice sheet”, climate physics associate professor Bo Møllesøe Vinther of the University of Copenhagen told AFP.

By drilling into the ice sheet to retrieve samples of snow and ice from hundreds of years ago, scientists were able to reconstruct temperatures from north and central Greenland from the year 1000 AD to 2011.

Their results, published in the scientific journal Nature, show that the warming registered in the decade from 2001-2011 “exceeds the range of the pre-industrial temperature variability in the past millennium with virtual certainty”.

During that decade, the temperature was “on average 1.5  degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th century”, the study found.

The melting of the Greenland ice sheet is already leading to rising sea levels, threatening millions of people living along coasts that could find themselves underwater in the decades or centuries to come.

Greenland’s ice sheet is currently the main factor in swelling the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA, with the Arctic region heating at a faster rate than the rest of the planet.

In a landmark 2021 report on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the Greenland ice sheet would contribute up to 18 centimetres to sea level rise by 2100 under the highest emissions scenario.

The massive ice sheet, two kilometres thick, contains enough frozen water to lift global seas by over seven metres (23 feet) in total.

Under the Paris climate deal, countries have agreed to limit warming to well under 2C.

“The global warming signal that we see all over the world has also found its way to these very remote locations on the Greenland ice sheet”, Vinther said. 

“We need to stop this before we get to the point where we get this vicious cycle of a self-sustaining melting of the Greenland ice”, he warned.

“The sooner the better”. 

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