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Luxembourg - General Elections

General Elections in Luxembourg, a round up just days before the vote

General Elections in Luxembourg, a round up just days before the vote

02/06/2009 - D-7

452 candidates from 8 political parties are running for the general elections on 7th June. The country's 3 main parties – the Christian Social Party (PCS/CVS), the Socialist Workers' Party (POSL/LSAP) and the Democratic Party (PD/DP) – are counting on the popularity of their leading candidates – outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Jean Asselborn and Claude Meisch respectively – to take the electoral campaign forwards. On 7th June, Luxembourgers are also being called to elect their 6 MEPs.

The Christian Social Party, in power since the end of the Second World War – except for the five years between 1974 and 1979 when the government was led by the Democratic Party - is campaigning on its results as head of the government coalition. The programme recalls that 200 million euros have been injected into the economy to fund infrastructure projects (including 135 million for roadworks) and highlights the 160 projects in support of craftsmen.
Outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in office since 1995, is leading the Christian Social Party in the South constituency. The question of the Head of State's future, as five years ago, is the focus of the campaign. Many political observers mention that Jean-Claude Juncker might be tempted by a European position. To one journalist from the German weekly Der Spiegel which on 28th May wanted to know whether he was interested in the presidency of the European Commission or the position of President of the European Council (which will be created as soon as the Lisbon Treaty is ratified), the Prime Minister of Luxembourg declared: "First and foremost I am campaigning at present to be elected Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Secondly we have to wait and see if the Irish accept the Lisbon Treaty. Third a campaign is not undertaken to obtain such positions but one is appointed by others. And finally my political instinct tells me that after the recent squabbles some of my European colleagues would not like the idea of appointing me to this sort of post."

Entitled "the Red Line", the Socialist Workers' Party programme (POSL/LSAP), member of the outgoing government coalition, is focused on defence and the enhancement of the principles of the social State, fairness and solidarity. "The Socialist Workers' Party is not the enemy of the banks and believes that Luxembourg's financial position is important," stresses its leader, Jean Asselborn, who also thinks "that tomorrow's economy will be social or it will not." "Our results are rather satisfactory. Notably in the areas of education, immigration policy, public transport and environment," insists Jean Asselborn, who adds, "the country needs socialist ideas."
As tradition has it the Socialist Workers' Party has given the greatest share on its lists to many local representatives (burgermeisters, aldermen and community councillors). "Proximity to the field is very important," says Jean Asselborn, former burgermeister of Steinfort. "We are a united party, more united than ever in 30 years of existence," indicates party leader Alex Bodry.

The Democratic Party is demanding a recovery plan for industry and craftsmen. Paul Helminger (PD/DP) burgermeister of the town of Luxembourg has criticized Jean-Claude Juncker's government for not having taken the correct steps during the international economic crisis and for not having a vision for the future. According to Paul Helminger, the transformation of the financial market in Luxembourg is vital for its survival.

Action for Democracy and Justice for Pensions (ADR) has focused its programme, amongst others, on social cohesion. The party is against dual nationality. "One nationality, the Luxembourg nationality, is the goal for integration in our country," says its leader Roby Mehlen. The party is demanding that the Luxembourg language be included in the Constitution and that it becomes an obligatory subject in secondary education. These measures are all the more important because in Roby Mehlen's opinion over 40% of the Luxembourg population are foreigners (36.9% according to Eurostat) and 44% of the working population are non-residents. "This unique situation in Europe is a real challenge to social cohesion," he maintains.

The Greng-Greens programme focus on three ideas: ecology, economy and education. The ecologists hope to see education and research oriented more towards environmental issues. To revive the financial sector they want to develop green and socially responsible investment funds (SRI). Dei Greng-Greens believe that heavy deficit will weigh the State budget down until 2010 and as a result they are not promising any reductions in taxes, qualified as an irresponsible measure and a solution of facility. "I warn all of those who are promising tax reductions over the next five years. Because tax breaks will result in an even greater reduction of the State's funding ability and it will increase debts. And so social structures will pay the price," declared François Bausch, president of the parliamentary group Dei Greng-Greens and alderman of the town of Luxembourg.

Dei Lenk-the Left (G) has set five priorities. Firstly the party is demanding a rise in the minimum salary so that this is above the poverty line. It is requesting better protection for employees in the event of economic dismissals, greater taxation on profits, on major fortunes and major salaries to fund public services, massive investment in social housing (construction of 2,000 houses/year including 10% of social housing) and finally a reduction in working hours down to 35 hours/week.

Ali Ruckert's Communist Party (KPL/PCL) highlights the creation of jobs and the extension of workers' rights. It wants to establish a State bank that will not speculate and which will support SME's.

Finally the Citizens' List (Biergerlëscht, B), an anti-establishment party which is running as the representative of the 44% of Luxembourgers who voted "no" to the referendum on the European Constitution organised on 10th July 2005; above all it wants to retain the seat occupied by its leader Aly Jaerling, former ADR member and now an independent.

The Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce published the results for the legislature 2004-2009. It welcomed the progress achieved in terms of the country's progress and the diversification of the economy but it recalls that impediments to the good running of the economy remain, notably because of the rigidity of the labour laws. Hence Luxembourg fell from 5th to 12th position between 2008-2009 in the ranking undertaken annually by the International Institute for Managing Development (IMD). The Chamber of Commerce is pleased with progress made in terms of research and innovation but stresses that the reforms started in support of vocational training and primary education are not clear enough. Finally it regrets that reductions in State spending have been delayed because of the economic crisis.

The National Council of Women of Luxembourg regrets that two parties - Ali Ruckert's Communist Party (KPL/PCL) and Aly Jaerling's Citizens' List (Biergerlëscht, B) - retained none of the 62 proposals in support of women that it had put forward for their electoral programmes. The Christian Social Party retained 7, Dei Greng-The Greens, 8, the Democratic Party, 9, the Socialist Workers' Party, 13 and Dei Lenk-The Left, 14.

Nearly half of the candidates running in the general elections accepted to answer 38 questions to establish their profile on the site http://smartvote.lu launched by a team of researchers of the University of Luxembourg to help voters decide which party or candidate they felt closest to. "During the analysis of the previous general elections on 13th June 2004, we saw that the electoral programmes were only taken into account by 6% to 7% of the electorate. This is very slight," indicates Raphael Kies, a political science researcher.
Voters tend to vote according to the feeling parties and above all the candidates convey or to how close they feel to the latter. Hence five years ago half of the electorate mixed their vote and chose individual candidates rather than political parties. In Luxembourg each voter has a number of votes equal to the number of MPs to elect in their constituency. The voter can attribute one vote to each of the candidates on the same list but also they can vote for candidates from two or several different lists and even make "a dual vote" i.e. vote twice (maximum) for one of the candidates on a list. Finally he is free to mix the last two types of voting for example by using the dual vote on several candidates on several different lists.

According to most political analysts the general elections on 7th June next will probably lead to the re-election of the Christian Social Party/Socialist Workers' Party. It remains to be seen whether Jean-Claude Juncker will be the next Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy or not.
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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