Daily Archives: October 29, 2013
Legislative elections were held in Luxembourg on October 20, 2013. All 60 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (D’Chamber or Chambre des Députés), elected by proportional representation in multi-member constituencies to serve five year terms (unless it is dissolved earlier, like this year).
The country is divided into four multi-member constituencies, each including two or more cantons and returning a variable number of deputies: Centre (21), Est (7), Nord (9) and Sud (23). Voters have as many votes as they are seats; they may choose to cast a single vote for a party list (and number additional candidates if the party’s list has less candidates than there are seats) or he/she may vote for individual candidates on one or more lists and give candidates up to two votes until he/she ‘runs out’ of votes. Seats are distributed proportionally to each party in the constituencies based on the total numbers of votes (list/candidate) each list received. The original allocation of seats is done using the Hagenbach-Bischoff method, with unfilled seats allocated according to the highest averages method.
Luxembourg, a small constitutional monarchy sandwiched between Belgium, Germany and France, is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and – unsurprisingly – has been a haven of remarkable political stability since 1919, only interrupted by the Second World War. At the core of this political stability is the hegemony of the country’s “natural governing party”, the Christian Social People’s Party (Chrëschtlech Sozial Vollekspartei, CSV). The CSV, founded in 1944, and prior to that its pre-war incarnation – the Party of the Right (PD) – has been the largest party in the Chamber in every election since 1919, the first ‘modern’ election with universal suffrage, proportional representation and a party system. The constitutional reforms of 1919 introducing universal suffrage marked the end of a political era dominated by a small clique of liberal-minded elites, replacing it with a modern party system.
The CSV or the PD have formed government (providing the Prime Minister) since 1919 with the exception of 1925-1926 and 1974-1979. However, to consider Luxembourg a “one-party dominant” system because of the Catholic right’s dominance is probably erroneous: they have consistently governed in coalition with other major parties, either the liberals or the socialists, since the war and the PD formed a single-party government only once, between 1921 and 1925 (when it held an absolute majority). As in Austria, there is a strong tradition of ‘Grand Coalition’-type governments in the country, although unlike in Austria this tradition predates 1945.
Ideologically, the CSV is a moderate, centre-right and very much pro-European Christian democratic party. On economic and social matters, the Catholic right has long been influenced by Christian social teachings and PD/CSV-led governments laid the bases of the country’s social security and welfare state systems beginning in the 1920s and continuing in the post-war years.
Luxembourg, despite its small size, has played an active role in European politics since the war. The country has long played a strategic role in European power politics and has always been closely tied to its neighbors. Until the First World War, Luxembourg maintained extremely close economic ties with Germany, who controlled a significant share of the country’s nascent industry and infrastructure. In the 1920s, Luxembourg formed an economic union with Belgium.
After the Second World War, Luxembourg gradually became one of the more influential powers in European diplomacy, despite its small size and population. The country was a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a major step given that the creation of the ECSC placed steel – the main resource of the Grand Duchy – under supranational control. It was a founding member of the EEC and Euratom in 1957. Given the country’s small size, its leaders have been keen to promote their country’s interests and ensure their representation in supranational institutions, so that larger domineering powers did not come to overwhelm smaller member states such as Luxembourg. It has been remarkably successful in doing so; Luxembourg has gained a reputation as a trustworthy intermediaries in European negotiations and it is home to a number of EU institutions. Luxembourg, alongside Scandinavia, spends the most (as a % of its GDP) on international development aid, about 1% of the country’s GDP.
Luxembourgian politicians have also been at the forefront of EU politics. CSV Prime Minister Pierre Werner (1954-1974, 1979-1984) is considered the forefather of the Euro; two former Prime Ministers, including the CSV’s Jacques Santer (1984-1995) was President of the European Commission between 1995 and 1999. Liberal Prime Minister Gaston Thorn (1974-1979) had held this office between 1981 and 1985. Incumbent CSV Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has played a major role on the European scene, as a former president of the Eurogroup and has championed greater social integration in the EU.
The CSV remains strongly pro-European. Unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, the CSV supports Eurobonds and its 2013 platform talks of the need for ‘solidarity’ by wealthier member states, the need for structural reforms aimed at economic growth and minimum basic rights for European workers and criticized the United Kingdom’s attempts to “empty EU policies of their substance”.
Jean-Claude Juncker (CSV) has served as Prime Minister since 1995, which makes him the longest-serving head of government in EU and one of the longest-serving in the world as a whole (and, arguably, the longest-serving democratically-elected head of government in the world). Juncker was forced to resign and call for snap elections, a year ahead of schedule, in July 2013 after a scandal in the State Intelligence Service (SREL).
An investigation revealed that the SREL had engaged in irregular and illegal activities including illegal wiretaps, bugging politicians, extrajudicial operations and maintaining files on citizens and politicians. In November 2012, the media published details of a conversation between Juncker and the former director of the SREL which had taken place in 2007. The former director mentioned the existence of 300,000 individual files on citizens and politicians and even alleged links between Grand Duke Henri and the MI6. Juncker, as the person responsible for the SREL’s actions, was accused of failing to notice and report on illegal activities and deficiencies within the SREL. In July 2013, the CSV’s coalition partner, the social democrats (LSAP) withdrew their support and tabled a motion of no confidence. Juncker resigned and asked the Grand Duke to dissolve parliament before the motion could be voted on.
The CSV’s campaign emphasized the government’s record on fields such as family policy, pension reform, healthcare, wages (the minimum wage was increased in 2011 and 2013) and fiscal policy (reducing the deficit, which is less than 1% of GDP; the party wants to balance the budget by 2017). Its other priorities included increasing benefits for low-income individuals, a more active social housing policy, investments in post-secondary education and R&D, primary education in French and reducing youth unemployment by pushing the youths to ‘assume responsibility’ and compel them to accept job offers (even below their skill levels). Another of the CSV’s main objectives in this campaign was a major proposal to reduce the number of communes in the country by organizing a national referendum on the subject in 2017, and reviewing the division of responsibilities between the levels of government.
The CSV has a strong Catholic tradition and still favours a strong role for the Church in public life and religious classes in schools, but it is no longer conservative on moral/societal questions: the party supports same-sex marriage and voted in favour of legalizing euthanasia in 2008.
The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei, LSAP) has almost always been Luxembourg’s second strongest party, behind the PD/CSV. The country’s socialist party was founded in 1905 and refounded as the LSAP, on the model of Britain’s Labour Party, in 1945. The party has always been moderate and pragmatic: it formed an anti-clerical alliance with the liberals in 1908, and it has almost always been represented in government since 1937. The LSAP found itself outside the governing coalition only a handful of times since 1945: between 1969 and 1974, between 1979 and 1984 and between 1999 and 2004. It has governed in coalition with Juncker’s CSV since 2004, with LSAP leader Jean Asselborn as Deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister.
The LSAP, which won in the mid-to-high 30s in the 1950s and 1960s, has seen its support declined gradually, winning only 21.6% of the vote in the last election in 2009. The party’s support is very much concentrated in the Sud constituency, which covers the Red Lands region – the heart of the country’s old iron ore and steel industry.
The LSAP’s top candidate in this election was Étienne Schneider. Although the CSV accused the LSAP of treason for withdrawing their support from the government, the LSAP downplayed and denied such claims, blaming Juncker’s behaviour for his own downfall and the snap elections. Besides, the party’s campaign focused on other issues, notably economic or political issues. The LSAP took credit for most of the government’s reforms and said it was the “driving force” in the coalition with the CSV, having spearheaded major reforms in secondary education, healthcare and pensions.
Its platform called for tax reform (a new 45% income tax bracket for couples whose income is over €400,000 or singles whose income is over €200,000), lowering the voting age to 16, more referenda, separation of church and state, gender parity on electoral lists, primary education in French, capping rent increases and all-day schooling.
Above all, the question of ‘the index’ – the indexation of wages to the cost of living/inflation – was a major issue in this election. A recent reform means that the index will be modified only once a year (in October) until 2014, instead of twice a year before. The CSV supports capping the index and one increase per year (and removing tobacco, alcohol and oil from the calculation of the index); the LSAP took an offensive stance, claiming responsibility for the survival of the wage index, and proposing to return to the normal system of indexation once the crisis is over.
The Democratic Party (Demokratesch Partei, DP) is Luxembourg’s liberal party, which has traditionally placed third behind the CSV and LSAP. The DP was founded in 1955, a descendant of the Liberal League (founded in 1904, dissolved in 1925) and the post-war Patriotic and Democratic Group. The DP is not the CSV’s preferred coalition partners, so it has not been in government as often as the LSAP, but it was nevertheless in coalition with the CSV between 1959 and 1964, 1969 and 1974, 1979 and 1984 and 1999 and 2004.
Following the 1974 elections, in which the DP won a record high 22% of the vote, the DP’s Gaston Thorn formed a coalition with the LSAP, excluding the CSV – the only post-war government which excluded the CSV, to date. Thorn’s government coincided with the steel crisis of the 1970s, which badly hurt Luxembourg’s main secondary industry; but his government nevertheless passed a number of major societal reforms (abolishing the death penalty, no-fault divorce, abortion) and economic reforms which allowed for a less traumatic deindustrialization and transition to a tertiary (finance-driven) economy. However, the LSAP suffered loses in the 1979 election and the DP was unable to form another coalition with them, forcing them into a coalition under the CSV’s Pierre Werner until 1984. After major gains in the 1999 election (22%), the DP formed a government with the CSV’s Juncker.
The DP suffered significant loses in the last two elections, and won only 9 seats in the 2009 election and 15% of the vote, its lowest vote share since 1964. The DP is traditionally strong in urban and suburban areas, where it attracts middle-class and upper middle-class voters. As such, the DP often tailors its platform to the ‘middle-classes’.
The DP’s top candidate in this election was Xavier Bettel, the young (40) and openly gay mayor of Luxembourg City since 2011 (the DP has governed the country’s capital since 1970, it currently rules in coalition with the Greens).
The DP is the keenest supporter of liberal market economics in the country, although in practice it has been only moderately liberal and is probably to the left of the German FDP. The party’s catchphrase in this election was “spending less and offering more” – reviewing and rationalizing government spending, notably proposing to eliminate “gifts” made by the state. The DP used to support abolishing indexation, but it has backtracked on that unpopular decision. Instead, the liberals want to continue the current ‘extraordinary’ yearly indexation beyond 2014.
The party’s platform was strongly critical of the CSV-LSAP government’s record, particularly on fiscal matters. It decried the increase in the public debt (from 15% to 23% of GDP since 2009) and in unemployment (from 5.5% to 7%), saying that the country’s AAA credit rating could find itself threatened.
The Greens (Déi Gréng) were founded in 1983 as the Green Alternative Party, which won 2 seats in the 1984 election. The green movement split in 1985 and competed separately in the 1989 elections, before coming together to run a single list in the 1994 elections (10%). The Luxembourgian Greens are one of the consistently strongest green parties in Europe, winning 11.7% in 2009 and 16.8% in the European elections held alongside the 2009 legislative elections. The Greens have yet to participate in government nationally, but as aforementioned they are the DP’s junior partner at the local level in Luxembourg City – where they won over 18% of the vote in the 2011 local elections.
The Greens’ platform focused on traditional green issues (environment, energy etc) but also placed strong emphasis on ethics and democratic reform. The party proposed to create a two successive term limit for ministers, lowering the voting age to 16, voting rights for foreigners in legislative elections, greater governmental accountability to the legislature and a strong ethics charter for politicians and public officials. On other issues, the Greens’ proposals included separation of church of state, returning to the automatic indexation of salaries to inflation, promoting the Luxembourgish language and free public daycare.
The Alternative Democratic Reform Party (Alternativ Demokratesch Reformpartei, ADR) is a conservative party which finds its roots in a pensioners movement founded in 1987. The ADR was founded as a different names by activists who demanded the equality of state pensions between public servants and the general public (public servants earned 5/6th of their final salary as their pension, everyone else only had a basic state pension). This demand formed the core of the ADR’s platform until 1998, when a law was passed equalizing pensions. Afterwards, the ADR has sought to diversify its political agenda and has reincarnated itself as a conservative and Eurosceptic party, without losing its disproportionately elderly electorate or interest in pensioners’ issues. The ADR adopted its current name in 2006, dropping all references to pension reform from its name.
The ADR enjoyed early electoral success, winning 8% in 1989, 9% in 1994 and a record high of 11% in 1999. Its support has fallen back from that high water mark, to 8% in 2009.
The ADR is a conservative, populist and Eurosceptic parties. It opposed the 2005 European Constitution, which Luxembourgian voters approved in a referendum, and the Lisbon Treaty; the ADR stands out from other parties in the country, who, with the exception of the far-left, are all pro-EU. Its platform emphasized transparency, direct democracy (calling for more referenda), less bureaucracy and defense of the pension system. The party opposes any increase in the VAT, capping indexation and voting rights for foreigners.
The ADR campaigned rather heavily on the last issue, which is a major issue in a country where about 45% of the population are foreigners without Luxembourgian citizenship. A land of emigration when it was a poor, rural, agrarian backwater in the nineteenth century, Luxembourg has been a land of immigration since the 1890s with industrialization. Southern Luxembourg’s heavy industries attracted a large foreign workforce, notably from Italy or Portugal. Immigration increased during the 1960s and 1970s, a period of solid economic growth which coincided with a domestic labour shortage and a low fertility rate. The country welcomed a very large Portuguese population; Portuguese citizens make up about 16.4% of the country’s total population. The presence of major EU institutions in the country has also attracted a large foreign population working in EU institutions. Dual citizenship was allowed in 2009; residents having lived in the country for 7 years, passed an evaluation of Luxembourgish language skills and taken civic classes. The CSV and ADR both oppose extending voting rights for foreigners to in legislative elections (since 2003, all foreigners regardless of duration of residence and nationality may vote in local elections); the CSV supports reducing the residency requirement for citizenship from 7 to 5 years, something which the ADR also opposes.
The far-left is divided between The Left (Déi Lénk) and the Communist Party of Luxembourg (Kommunistesch Partei Lëtzebuerg, KPL). The former, which held one seat in the outgoing legislature, was founded in 1999 with the support of the KPL, LSAP dissidents and assorted leftists; it won 3% and 1 seat in the 1999 elections. However, the KPL split from The Left ahead of the 2004 election, which meant that The Left lost its seat while the KPL failed to gain a seat of its own. The Left regained its seat in 2009. The KPL was founded in 1921 by a split in the LSAP, and was fairly powerful electorally. It won over 10% of the vote in the first years after the war and in the mid-1960s, and lost its last seat in Parliament only in 1994.
The Left emphasizes redistribution of wealth by increasing the taxation of capital income, a more steeply progressive income tax and an increase in the minimum wage. The party’s platform also proposed reducing working hours, separation of church and state, a ‘social and regional’ Europe abolishing the monarchy. The KPL’s platform is broadly similar, emphasizing the defense of workers’ social rights. The KPL wants to nationalize major industries and some banks.
Two new parties appeared on the scene this year. The local Pirate Party (Piratepartei) is broadly similar to other Pirate parties in Europe, notably the German Pirates with which it has close ties. The party’s major themes include protection of personal data (including keeping banking secrecy, which is scheduled to be abolished), a basic income of 800€ per month, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, abolition of mandatory voting, lowering the voting age to 16, granting foreigner residents the right to vote, and the promotion of Luxembourgish and its enshrinement in the constitution. The Pirates found themselves in hot water when they were forced to remove one of their candidates who had led a far-right party in the 1980s.
The Party for Integral Democracy (Partei fir Integral Demokratie, PIR) is another new party, founded by Jean Colombera, a ADR deputy who resigned from the party in 2012. Colombera, along with another ARD deputy who also left the party last year (Jacques-Yves Henckes) had criticized the ADR’s socially conservative and hard-right leadership; Colombera, a physician who practices homeopathic medicine, supports same-sex marriage and is under investigation for prescribing medical marijuana (he supports the legalization of cannabis). Colombera’s platform of platitudes is heavily influenced by holistic medicine. What can be drawn from the PID’s platform is that it is populist and anti-political; it supports direct democracy, some kind of Swiss consociationalism or Austrian Proporz (although it also seems to favour doing away with political parties) and has anti-bureaucracy rhetoric.
Turnout was 91.15%, voting is mandatory in Luxembourg.
CSV 33.68% (-4.36%) winning 23 seats (-3)
LSAP 20.28% (-1.28%) winning 13 seats (nc)
DP 18.25% (+3.27%) winning 13 seats (+4)
Greens 10.13% (-1.58%) winning 6 seats (-1)
ADR 6.64% (-1.49%) winning 3 seats (-1)
The Left 4.94% (+1.65%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Pirates 2.94% (+2.94%) winning 0 seats (nc)
KPL 1.64% (+0.17%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PID 1.5% (+1.5%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Results by constituency
The CSV, as usual, polled (by far) the most votes although Prime Minister Juncker’s party suffered major loses. The CSV seems to have been hurt by the SREL scandal, which eroded the public’s trust not only in Juncker/the CSV but also in their politicians and institutions; but it was also hurt by the country’s weaker economy, with rising unemployment (7%), concerns about the affordability of public housing, social tensions over the indexation issue and the major growth in the country’s public debt. The LSAP, the CSV’s junior partner since 2004, also suffered smaller loses, reducing the party to a paltry 20.3%, its worst result in its history. The LSAP’s campaign, which consisted of criticizing the CSV while claiming credit for the achievements of the governing coalition since 2009, evidently had little popular appeal.
The main winner, meanwhile, was Xavier Bettel’s DP. The party likely benefited from its campaign, heavily critical of the CSV’s record in government, but it also benefited from its top candidate, Bettel, a popular mayor who received high ratings in leadership polls (although most voters preferred Juncker as PM, by a mile).
The Greens and ARD suffered small loses, each losing one seat. I’m not quite sure why the Greens saw their support decrease; it may have seen some of its 2009 voters vote for the DP this year. The ARD was destabilized in 2012 by the resignation of two deputies critical of the leader’s hard-right agenda, and later by the resignation of the embattled party president, who was recently revealed to have been a double agent during the Cold War. The ADR’s vice president was investigated in relation to the fraudulent sale of Hooters’ franchises in Germany.
Smaller parties, however, made gains. The Left was able to win a second seat, although this falls short of its hopes to win between 3 and 5 seats. The KPL also made some very minor gains.
The Pirate Party had a fairly strong showing for its first electoral participation. They might have benefited from the SREL scandal and growing disillusion/dissatisfaction with the political leadership.
The CSV won 109 of the Grand Duchy’s 116 communes, three fewer than in 2009. Unlike in 2009, the DP won communes – four in total.
The CSV, as your typical Benelux Catholic party, performs best in small, rural municipalities – notably in eastern and parts of northern Luxembourg. The party is weaker in larger urban centres, often polling below its national average, although one of the CSV’s main advantages in electoral terms is the relative homogeneity of its vote share across Luxembourg. The party’s weakest result seems to have been about 26% of the vote, in the industrial southern town of Dudelange.
On the other hand, the LSAP’s weakness is that its support tends to be more regionally concentrated than the CSV but also the other parties (DP, Greens). It draws a disproportionate amount of its vote from the Sud constituency, where it won – by far – its best result with 28.2%, not far behind the CSV. The Sud constituency is the most populous constituency in the country, so we should expect it to contribute a large share of each party’s vote; but in the LSAP’s case, no less than 63% of its votes came from that one single constituency – for comparison, about 51% of all votes cast in the country were cast in the south.
Southern Luxembourg is the most heavily industrialized region of the country, covering the iron-rich Red Lands, and was at the heart of the Grand Duchy’s economy until the 1970s. The region’s economy was driven by iron ore mining, metallurgy and iron working. Hit hard by the steel crisis in the 1970s, industry has markedly declined and most mines or steel mills have shut down, although ArcelorMittal still operates factories in Differdange, Rodange and Schifflange. The south is now poorer, less educated and more blue-collar than the rest of the country, but deindustrialization has seemingly been less traumatic than in neighboring France.
The LSAP topped the polls in two towns in the Red Lands, on the French border: Dudelange (36%) and Rumelange (36%). The party did not top the poll in Kayl, as it had done in 2009, but won a strong 29.6%. In Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg’s second largest city and a former steel town, the LSAP won 25.5%, about 5% behind the CSV. The LSAP performed relatively well in other major industrial towns in the Red Lands including Differdange (21.6%), Pétange/Rodange (22%), Käerjeng (25%), Schifflange (27.8%) and Sanem (26%). Outside the Red Lands, the LSAP did well in middle-sized towns, likely with some sort of industry. In the north, the LSAP topped the poll in Wiltz (36%), a fairly large industrial town (floorcovering, copper, tanneries until the 1960) and a centre of anti-Nazi resistance in 1942. On the other hand, the LSAP performed poorly in white-collar urban centres such as Luxembourg City (14%) and many rural areas. It won less than 15% of the vote in the Centre and Est constituencies and a bit over 17% in the Nord.
The DP’s support is slightly more balanced than the LSAP’s very southern support, although it still has distinctive weak spots and strongholds. The DP polled best, with 25% in the Centre constituency, the country’s most educated and white-collar constituency (it includes Luxembourg City). It also did well, however, in the Nord with 23.7%. It did very poorly, however, in the Red Lands, with only 12.7% in the Sud. Luxembourg City is one of the DP’s traditional strongholds, it won 27% of the vote this year in the capital (34% for the CSV), and it also polls strongly in some adjacent suburbs – Bertrange (28.7%) and Strassen (29.5%). The largest city with a strong DP vote was the affluent spa town of Mondorf-les-Bains, where it placed first with 33% of the vote (a 2-point lead on the CSV).
Surprisingly, the Greens’ vote is not distinctively urban. In fact, it polls best in smaller towns, not far from major urban cores (Luxembourg City) but who have a fairly small population. The Greens won 10.1% in Luxembourg City, a lower result than one might expect from a green party in an educated and white-collar capital city. It did best in towns not too distant from there – its best result was 24% in Beckerich, a town which apparently produces most of its energy needs from alternative sources. The Pirates’ map was also fairly balanced, not doing distinctively better in urban areas – and unlike the Greens, they also did well in more remote northern areas.
The ADR did best in rural areas isolated from major urban areas (although it did well in the post-industrial towns in the south), polling poorly in Luxembourg City (4.4%) and its periphery, but quite strongly (8-10%) in rural towns in the Est constituency.
The Left and the KPL found most of their support in the south. The Left won 5.7% in the Sud constituency, the KPL won 2.8% in the Sud constituency and polled crumbs elsewhere. The Left and the KPL both attracted discontent LSAP voters in the LSAP’s southern strongholds; The Left won 9.7% in Esch-sur-Alzette and did well (5-6%) in Dudelange, Rumelange, Sanem and Differdange. The KPL won over 4% of the vote in Esch-sur-Alzette, Differdange and Rumelange. The Left did, however, do well in the Centre as well (4.8%) and won 5.9% in Luxembourg City.
Jean Colombera’s PID did best, by far, in Colombera’s Nord constituency (3.3%). The Nord cast only 9.7% of the overall votes, but no less than 21% of the PID’s vote came from there. It did best, with 11.2%, in Vichten, Colombera’s hometown.
The statistics on the number of list vs. personal votes is quite instructive. Overall, 60% of voters cast a list vote. List voting was far more common for the smaller parties, whose leaders are less prominent or well-known. Most votes cast for The Left (69.9%), the ADR (72.6%), the KPL (66.4%), the Pirates (72.3%) and the PID (66.7%) were list votes; in contrast, 54.3% of the LSAP’s votes were list votes, as were 58.9% of CSV votes, 59% of DP votes and 57% of Green votes. Personal voting seems more common in the Nord, a majority of DP, Green, LSAP and PID votes in that constituency were personal votes, and a smaller percentage of The Left, the CSV and the ADR’s votes were list votes.
DP leader Xavier Bettel won 32,064 personal votes in the Centre constituency, considerably more than he had won in 2009 (around 19.7k) and more than what LSAP leader Étienne Schneider won in the same constituency (19,682; the LSAP’s 2009 top candidate in the constituency won 25.6k). Bettel also won more personal votes than Luc Frieden, the CSV minister of finance and Juncker’s potential successor.
Juncker, running in the Sud, won 55,968 personal votes (67.1k in 2009). LSAP Deputy Prime Minister Jean Asselborn won 38,257 personal votes in the same constituency. In the Nord, DP lead candidate Charles Goerens, a former cabinet minister and incumbent MEP won 17,523 votes on his name, more than the CSV and LSAP local top candidates.
This election seems likely to usher in dramatic change to Luxembourgian politics – although it doesn’t seem like that from the result. While a CSV-LSAP or CSV-DP coalition, both of which have governed Luxembourg in the last 10 years, would both hold 36 seats. However, during the campaign, the leaders of the LSAP, DP and Greens announced numerous times their desire to oust Juncker from office and did not rule out a three-party anti-CSV coalition, known as a ‘Gambia coalition’ because the three parties’ colours (red, blue, green) are the colours of the Gambian flag.
The leaders of three parties met last weeks and quickly agreed to form a Gambian coalition, led by DP leader Xavier Bettel. Although the DP won less votes than the LSAP, it was the only one of the three parties which gained votes and seats in the election and Bettel was clearly preferred by Luxembourgian voters to his LSAP counterpart, Étienne Schneider. It is a major blow for Étienne Schneider, who had repeatedly said during his campaign that he would be Prime Minister. Now, he will give that job to Bettel, who for his part had downplayed talk of him becoming Prime Minister and only a few months ago stated that he preferred staying on as mayor.
Grand Duke Henri named an informateur on October 23, a non-political person in charge of consulting parties to identify the contending forces and potential governing parties. On October 25, the Grand Duke named Xavier Bettel as formateur, in charge of negotiating a coalition agreement and forming a government. Juncker was not called upon to form a government and the CSV seems resigned to its fate, becoming an opposition party for the first time in decades (the last non-CSV government was 1974-1979). The CSV, however, has decried the Gambian coalition – they feel that as the largest party (by a mile) they should have gotten first dibs at coalition-making and CSV leaders have almost all stated that the Gambian coalition is betrayal of voters’ verdict and trust (voters did not know what they were getting into, the CSV says).
The DP, LSAP and Greens agree on several issues (to be fair, there are no huge ideological gaps between the main parties in Luxembourg on major issues) but also disagree on other fairly important issue. The DP supports liberal economic and fiscal policies, reducing government spending and opposing tax hikes, while the LSAP supports tax increases for the wealthiest and disagrees with the DP when it comes to indexation (as do the Greens, who, however, also oppose tax hikes on the wealthiest). In a way, I figure the Gambian coalition might have something in common with Fine Gael-Labour coalitions in Ireland – not seeing eye to eye on every issue, but sharing a common opposition and distaste for the natural governing party (FF in Ireland, CSV in Luxembourg).
It remains to be seen how stable this arrangement will be, given that it seems to be motivated more by shared opposition to PM-for-life Juncker/the CSV than close ideological affinities. Charles Goerens, the DP MEP elected in the Nord, has already resigned his parliamentary seat, disagreeing with the way talks were conducted (he felt the DP should have talked to the CSV). The coalition might also reflect poorly on LSAP leader Étienne Schneider, who will be neither PM nor Deputy PM after all. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how voters will react to such a coalition.