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Early election looms as Faroese government coalition spirals into crisis

Only a week after the Faroese cast their ballots in the Danish parliamentary election to elect two members there — reelecting Sjúrður Skaale (Social Democrat) and electing newcomer Anna Falkenberg (Unionist) — the tiny island nation is now facing early elections, too.

On November 8th, the Centrist Party — a small coalition partner who had Jenis av Rana as cabinet member — announced their withdrawal from the government coalition following the sacking of Mr. av Rana from his cabinet post.

That means the current Faroese government is no longer backed by a parliamentary majority, which appears to be confirmed by recent statements from the leaders of the opposition parties, all of whom express their unwillingness to join forces with the coalition.

On Tuesday morning Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen announced that he had released Mr. av Rana of his duties as Minister of Culture and Foreign Affairs. According to news reports, Mr. av Rana had refused to provide for official church instructions to allow same-sex marriage couples to be registered as legal parents of children, irrespective of the fact that non-biological same-sex mothers are indeed legally recognized as parents on equal terms with fathers since legislative change was introduced last winter.

In an indirect jab at the Prime Minister, who had earlier arranged to remove the remit covering the controversial church instructions out of the Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs and place it with the Ministry of the Environment, Industry and Trade, Mr. av Rana in an interview with radio station FM1 had stated that he hoped to see Magnus Rasmussen, the Minister for Environment, Industry and Trade, take a page out of his book and refuse to provide the church instructions.

“As the Minister yesterday publicly encouraged other Ministers to directly disobey an order given by the Prime Minister, my tolerance has reached its limit,” Prime Minister Nielsen said in a statement announcing the sacking of Mr. av Rana.

Mr. av Rana has on several previous occasions come under fire for stepping out of line. Prior to the recent Danish parliamentary election he stated that would not support an openly gay man as candidate for Prime Minister, referring to Danish leader of the Conservative party, Søren Pape Poulsen, who had earlier declared his candidacy for Prime Minister of Denmark.

Mr. av Rana is the fourth government minister to leave his post since the new government took office in September 2019. Apart from Prime Minister Nielsen, the only original cabinet member remaining is Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, Minister of Health.

In August of 2021, Magnus Rasmussen replaced Helgi Abrahamsen as Minister of Environment, Industry and Trade; and in January 2022 Sólvit Nolsø and Árni Skaale replaced Elsebeth Mercedis Gunnleygsdóttur and Jacob Vestergaard as Ministers of Social Affairs and Fisheries, respectively, after the pair had resigned in December 2021 to reclaim their elected seats in parliament to vote against a controversial bill put forth by members of the opposition, which turned out a futile effort nonetheless. In February, Uni Rasmussen replaced Jørgin Niclasen as Minister of Finance, following the resignation of the latter over an incident of DUI.

The consequences of this political crisis remain unclear as of Tuesday evening. However, Prime Minister Nielsen hinted rather strongly at early election perhaps in December, well ahead of the regularly scheduled election date, which is August 31st, 2023.

Asked by a KvF reporter whether there will be an election in December, Mr. Nielsen replied: “I didn’t say that we will, but there are many indications to suggest that we will [have an election in December].


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