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Luxembourg - General Elections

General Elections in Luxembourg,
7th June 2009

General Elections in Luxembourg,
7th June 2009

11/05/2009 - Analysis

General elections take place in Luxembourg every five years on the first Sunday in June or if this date coincides with Whit Sunday, it takes place on the last Sunday in May. The electoral rule in the Grand Duchy stipulates however that "the general election must be organized on the day of the election of the representatives of the European Parliament if this election is to take place in June of the same year." Since 2009 is a European election year the Luxembourgers are being called to appoint the 60 members of their national Parliament and their 6 MEPs on 7th June.

The Political System

Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy of which Grand Duke Henri is the present Head of State. Parliament comprises a single chamber, the Chamber of Representatives, with 60 MP's elected for a five year period by a proportional list system according to the principle of the smallest electoral quota. Independent candidates, considered as a list in their own right are however accepted. During the election each voter has as many votes as he has MP's to elect in his constituency; each of the votes distributed between the candidates of the same list or several different lists are worth one vote. The voter may attribute a vote to each of the candidates on the same list. A person may also vote for candidates from two or several different lists or even "vote double" i.e. vote twice (maximum) for one of the candidates on a list. The voter is free to mix the ways he votes, for example by using the double vote for several candidates from several different lists.

The Grand Duchy is divided into four constituencies during the general elections: the South (Esch-sur-Azette and Capellen) that elects 23 representatives, the Centre (Luxembourg and Mersch) 21 MP's, the North (Diekirch, Redange, Wiltz, Clervaux and Vianden) 9 MP's and East (Grevenmacher, Remich and Echternach) 7 representatives. Candidates for the Chamber of Representatives must be at least 21 years old.

Finally we should remember that it is obligatory to vote in Luxembourg. Unjustified abstention is punished by a fine (100-250€). If it happens again within the next five years the fine increases from 500-1000€ and the voter may be struck off the electoral roll or even be prohibited from any form of appointment, promotion or distinction. Old people (older than 75) or those living abroad are allowed not to vote or they can vote by post. The Grand Duchy has no experience of proxy voting.
All draft laws are put to a double vote in the Luxembourg Parliament. Article 59 of the Constitution makes its obligatory for MP's to vote twice on a draft law except if the Chamber of Representatives and the State Council decide otherwise. A lapse of at least three months must lie between the two votes.

At present five political parties are represented in the Chamber of Representatives:
- Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker's Christian Social Party (PCS/CVS) led by present Labour and Employment Minister François Biltgen;
- The Socialist Workers' Party (POSL/LSAP), member of the outgoing government coalition of which Alex Bodry is the chair and Jean Asselborn is the government leader;
- the Democratic Party (PD/DP), led since 2004 by Claude Meischl;
- Dei Greng-the Greens, an ecologist party whose leaders are Tilly Metz and Carlo de Toffoli;
- Action for Democracy and Justice in terms of Pensions (ADR), created in 1987 is led by Roby Mehlen (outgoing MP in the East constituency) stands as the "Luxembourg people's voice against State dysfunction and social injustice" - it is fighting for direct democracy and wants that every public decision be submitted to referendum.

The Election Stakes

452 candidates from eight political parties are running for the Luxembourgers' votes on 7th June. In addition to the five parties represented in parliament there are also Dei Lenk-the Left (G), the Communist Party (KPL/PCL) led by Ali Ruckert, lead candidate in the Southern constituency, and the Citizens' List (Biergerlëscht, B). The latter party, which is anti-establishment and claiming greater social justice, says it represents the 44% of Luxembourgers who voted "no" in the referendum on the European Constitution on 10th July 2005. Against the Lisbon Treaty it wants a popular consultation on this text. Led by former MP for Action for Democracy and Justice for Pensions, Aly Jaerling (now independent), the Citizens' List is putting candidates forward in the Southern constituency only (where the party's leader is the first candidate) and the North (where Jean Ersfeld is lead candidate).

On 1st February last Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in office since 1995, was appointed by 90% of the members of the Christian-Social Party to lead the list again in the Southern constituency. Although it will be difficult for him to do better than in the previous elections on 13th June 2004, the Head of Government, who after 14 years as the country's leader, is still the most popular politician in the eyes of 86% of his countrymen (poll published by the daily Wort in July 2008), is aiming for another victory on 7th June. To do this he has to rally the Christian Social Party which is split between a Catholic, conservative right and a more liberal, social branch. As five years ago the issue of Jean-Claude Juncker's future has been mentioned by political observers. Some of them are not ruling out that the Prime Minister, who entered government in 1982 when he was 28 years old as Secretary of State for Employment and Social Security, might be tempted by a European position even though he has always maintained that he would privilege his national career. Recently the Handelsblatt newspaper reported that the Head of Government had said he was tired of permanent conflict particularly with regard to banking secrets and that he might leave the chair of the Eurogroup which brings together the Finance Ministers of the 16 Member States which use the euro. Appointed for the first time in 2005 as head of this organisation and re-elected since in the same position, the third term in office for Jean-Claude Juncker ends on 31st December 2010. Government spokesperson Guy Schuller says that the Prime Minister only wanted to say that he was not sure of being Finance Minister after 7th June.

Mir paken et un (We are taking matters in hand) is the Socialist Workers' Party slogan which is focusing its campaign on the themes of employment, economy and the environment. "We are aiming for continuity in terms of what has been achieved since 2004 and with this as a base we should open up new perspectives," declared Romain Schneider, the campaign director. Jean Asselborn hopes to bring about political transition. To achieve this he would like to enhance the State and have a stricter economic framework. "It is not an invisible hand that has pushed the world into the crisis, this will not solve it either," he said. The Socialist Workers' Party contacted his political adversaries in order to write and sign together a campaign code for mutual respect. Jean Asselborn is leading the list in the Southern constituency.
"What we want is to establish a Democratic Party label and for the party be acknowledged as such," said the Democratic Party leader, Claude Meischl, head of the list in the Southern constituency saying that he would never accept a government coalition with Action for Democracy and Justice for Pensions.

Action for Democracy and Justice for Pensions, which originally focused on pensions, has established education and drug addiction as the priority themes in its campaign, and it hopes to halt unnecessary State spending and simplify administrative tasks for citizens. Maach ma (Yes we can) is the party's slogan which has decided to reach as many Luxembourgers as possible in the electoral campaign – it recently published a newspaper which was distributed to 220,000 households.

2009 may be the year of success for Dei Greng–the Greens, a party which many political analysts thought was ready to join a government coalition five years ago. Dei Lenk-the Greens is committed to being more youthful and is putting forward candidates such as Fabienne Lentz, Marc Baum, David Wagner and Adrien Thomas. Finally the Communist Party, led by Ali Ruckert has chosen to campaign under the banner of De Mënsch virum Profit (People before Profit).

According to a poll by TNS-ILReS published by the daily Tageblatt on 6th May, 82% of Luxembourgers say they would go to ballot even if it was not obligatory to vote. Political analysts expect re-election for the Christian Social Party as the country's leaders. It remains to be seen the other parties performance to determine who will govern with Jean-Claude Juncker if he wins. The electoral campaign started on 4th May last.

Source: State IT Centre
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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