Power shift comes to Sami Parliament

Outgoing president Aili Keskitalo at the Barents Council metting in Tromsø 2013. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Outgoing president Aili Keskitalo at the Barents Council meeting in Tromsø 2013. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

The government of Aili Keskitalo was Thursday forced to resign as a big majority in the Norwegian Sami Parliament voted against the proposed budget of the Sami Association.

Keskitalo and the Sami Association has ruled the assembly for the last three years in a minority constellation.

The new rulers of the parliament come from the Labor Party, which won support from the Conservative Party (Høyre) and Árja for its alternative budget proposal. The budget bill was approved by as many as 33 of the 36 votes.

“After weeks of great uncertainty, it is now our responsibility to secure stability and safety for our municipalities, businesses, [and] and the Sami Parliament,” says Vibeke Larsen, leader of the Labour Party fraction. “Almost the whole plenary [of the assembly] stands behind our budget, I see that as a major declaration of confidence which I highly value,” she adds in a press release.

In a declaration, the Labor Party underlines that “We will work for the development of Sami self-rule in correspondence with internationally recognized norms for indigenous people’s self-governance. This will make sure that the development of the Sami society is made in line with the needs of the Sami people, its values and priorities.”

Aili Keskitalo, who was president in the assembly also in the period 2005-2007, says she is surprised about the outcome of the budget process.

“Clearly, in any political system there are risks related with the rule of a minority constellation,” the outgoing president says in a comment. “We were ready to continue to rule, but that it not the way it will be. It has been a true pleasure to be the Sami President in these three years.”

The shift of power comes just one year ahead of the scheduled parliament elections. In that vote, Helga Pedersen, the current deputy leader of Norwegian Labor Party, is running for the presidency.

The Sami Parliament is based in Karasjok, northern Norway. It has 39 delegates, and is based on parliamentary system of government. The assembly was established in 1989 in a bid to strengthen the political position of the Sami people.