A major shift occurred in Greenland politics on June 3, when the election results for the country’s parliament were announced.

Greenlanders saw the long-governing social democratic Siumut Party removed from power and the leftist Inuit Ataqatigiit (Greenlandic for Inuit Community) take over in this semi-autonomous territory, administered by Denmark.

Under the leadership of Kuupik Kleist, the IA doubled its number of seats from seven to 14 in the 31-member parliament. The party garnered 43.7% of the popular vote up from 22.4% in 2005. Election turnout was quite high with more than 70% of the island’s 40,000 eligible voters participating.

This major victory comes just weeks before the country transforms from “home rule” to “self rule” on June 21.

The IA wants independence from Denmark, but favours a slower separation from its colonial power than the previous Siumut government.

Under “self rule”, Greenlandic, an Inuit language, will become the official language.  Other areas of change include a gradual shift of control over the police, judicial system and the coast guard.

This political change will also bring greater control over the island’s mineral and petrochemical resources. Greenland and Denmark have agreed to share oil and gas revenues – although full-scale exploitation remains years away and Greenland still relies on Danish subsidies for about a third of its Gross Domestic Product.

Despite this transfer of power, Denmark will still control defense and foreign policy while Danish monarch Queen Margrethe II will remain the head of state. Greenland has been a colony of Denmark since 1775, and was a Danish province from 1953-1979, until it was granted home rule.