Luxembourg voters delivered an uncertain outcome in an election on Sunday, leaving the liberal-led coalition with just enough seats to stay in government and the traditionally dominant center-right also capable of returning to power. Opinion polls had indicated that the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) – which was led for 19 years by EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker – would end Xavier Bettel’s five years as prime minister of a three-party coalition. The CSV was on course to be the largest party, but actually lost seats, according to a projection by broadcaster RTL after more than 90 percent of the votes were counted.
A growing number of Luxembourg nationals are choosing to cast their votes by post. If at the previous elections, nearly 30.000 individuals decided to elect their representatives by post, authorities expect postal voting to gain even more ground at the upcoming national elections on 14 October. Based on current predictions, nearly 50.000 individuals are set to send their votes by mail. If the estimate turns out to be true, the figure would mark a new record for Luxembourg. Voting is compulsory in the Grand Duchy and one’s failure to exercise this right may be subject to a fine.
The communal elections in Luxembourg are a good opportunity to discuss the voting rights of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and of the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg Prince Guillaume. In a constitutional monarchy, how does the sovereign exercise his right to vote? Luxemburger Wort spoke to Luc Heuschling, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at the University of Luxembourg to find out the answer. Heuschling is also the author of the book “Le Citoyen Monarque. Réflexions sur le grand-duc, la famille grand-ducale et le droit de vote ” (Monarch and citizen. Reflections on the Grand Duke, the Grand Ducal Family and the right to vote” published in 2013. On Sunday the Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg Guillaume and the Hereditary Grand Duchess of Luxembourg Stéphanie exercised their voting rights as citizens of Luxembourg.
On Saturday the Bierger-Centre in Luxembourg City will open its doors especially for foreigners to register to vote in October’s local elections. The cut-off date to be able to register is July 13. In a bid to encourage as many of the near 47 per cent of foreigners living in Luxembourg to register to go to the polls, the Bierger-Centre on Place Guillaume is allowing people who may not be able to go to register during the week to complete the three-step process on a Saturday. People of any nationality worldwide and who will be at least 18 years old on the day of the election, October 8, can register to vote if they have lived in Luxembourg for at least five years on the date of registration. The five years of residency do not have to run concurrently and can be an accumulation of a total of five years.
In an effort to attract more foreign residents to vote, Luxembourg’s government is attempting to make the process easier by allowing non-nationals to register on the electoral roll via the internet. The possibility for electronic registration has now been added to the reform of the electoral law approved by the government in the Council of Ministers. The new law will still have to pass through parliament.
Luxemburgers have resoundingly rejected a proposal to let foreign residents vote in national elections, a move that would have been a first in Europe and could have expanded the electorate of the tiny but cosmopolitan Grand Duchy by as much as 50 percent. In Sunday’s consultative referendum, only about 22 percent supported the proposal, part of a modernizing agenda backed by liberal Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. There were also clear majorities against lowering the voting age to 16 from 18 and introducing 10-year term limits for ministers, following the 19-year rule of Bettel’s conservative predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker, now the EU’s chief executive.
Luxembourg could blaze a trail in the EU when it votes Sunday on whether to grant full voting rights to foreigners who make up nearly half of the population, as part of an unprecedented triple referendum. The voters in the tiny but wealthy duchy of 565,000 people will also be asked whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 and whether to limit the mandate of members of the government to 10 years. They will be asked to vote “Jo” or “Nee” in Luxembourgish, “Oui” or “Non” in French and “Ja” or “Nein” in German. The most important issue on the ballot would grant the right to vote to foreigners living in Luxembourg for more than 10n years, including the high number of Europeans, led by the Portuguese who account for 16.4 percent of the population.
European Commission President and former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has refused to comment on the upcoming June 7 referendum and the foreigner voting rights question. Questioned about the issue by the “Luxemburger Wort”, Juncker did not comment, with his press office later issuing a statement that the Commission in principle thinks that it is important “to support the participation of EU citizens in the democratic life of the EU.” The statement does not, however, address the specific question at hand in Luxembourg.
105,000 new voters could potentially join Luxembourg’s electoral register if a proposal enabling foreign residents to vote finds favour with Luxembourgers. On June 7, Luxembourgers will vote in a referendum to decide, among other things, whether or not to allow foreign residents who meet certain criteria to vote in legislative elections. According to figures published by STATEC, potentially 105,000 foreign residents meet the 10-year residency criterion being proposed.
Official campaigning for Luxembourg’s referendum began on Monday with politicians embarking on a shoe-string campaign to encourage Luxembourgers to follow their lead. The referendum itself takes place on June 7 when Luxembourgers will be asked to vote on three specific questions. The first question concerns the lowering of the voting age of Luxembourgers from 18 to 16 years old. The proposal would make it optional for 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, unlike the rest of the population, for which voting is compulsory. The second question explores the proposal of enabling foreign residents to vote in national elections in Luxembourg. Already, they may vote in local and European elections provided they meet certain criteria.
While Luxembourg is pondering whether to give foreign nationals the right to vote, in New Zealand the measure has become a “non-issue” since it was introduced some 50 years ago, according to a legal expert. Out of 193 officially recognised states currently only four allow non-nationals the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Aside from New Zealand, these include Chile, Uruguay and Malawi. Criteria vary widely. While in Chile foreigners need to have lived in the country for five years, in Malawi this rises to seven, while Uruguay has a residence requirement of 15 years. New Zealand first introduced voting rights for all residents in 1975, amending legislation in 1993 to state that only “permanent residents” who have lived in the country for over two years are eligible to vote. Compared to Luxembourg’s proposal of a 10-year residence period this seems comparatively low. In return, immigration criteria are somewhat stricter than in the Grand Duchy, although in many areas similar policies apply, for example employment.
Over 60 percent of CSV voters and over 80 percent of ADR voters are against foreigner voting rights, a poll conducted by TNS Ilres has found. The Politmonitor, commissioned by the “Luxemburger Wort” and RTL, polled a representative group of 841 voters, asking them the three referendum questions as they will appear on the ballot. Only 44 percent answered “yes” to granting voting rights to foreigners on the condition of having lived in the country for at least ten years and having previously participated in a local or European election. This compared to 48 percent of voters against the measure and 8 percent undecided.
The Luxembourg consultative referendum scheduled for June 7 is expected to come with a price tag of around 1.3 million euros, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has confirmed. In answer to a parliamentary question by ADR MP Roy Reding, Bettel said that he could not give an exact figure at this point in time. Especially the costs for the communes, such as letters to residents and staffing voting booths, are only estimated at one million euros.
Specialists from all over Europe are to participate in an interdisciplinary conference on voting rights for foreigners in Luxembourg. On March 20 and 21, leading thinkers in Europe from legal, philosophical and political backgrounds will gather at Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies for a conference dubbed “A new horizon for democracy? Voting rights for foreigners in national elections”. This conference discussion will be conducted in French with simultaneous English translation.
Expat organisations in Luxembourg have relaunched their migration and integration platform in a bid to educate the public and promote foreigner voting rights. On June 7, this year, Luxembourg’s electorate will decide whether or not it approves of voting rights for foreign nationals resident in the country in legislative elections. Ahead of this consultative poll, the Migration and Integration platform or MINTÉ is campaigning in favour of a yes vote.
Half of Luxembourgers would support a move for foreign nationals to vote in national elections, the final segment of the Politmonitor survey suggests. The poll tests the waters ahead of the 2015 referendum, scheduled for June 7, in particular in relation to foreign resident voting rights, capping ministerial posts to 10 years and religious subsidies. On foreigner voting rights, 47 percent of Luxembourgers who responded to the survey said they would support a move allowing non-Luxembourg nationals the right to vote in legislative elections. They pledged their support provided that to be eligible, voters had resided within the country for at least 10 years and had previously participated in European elections in Luxembourg. Of the total group polled, nearly two thirds (62 percent) support this move, as did 80 percent of foreign residents.
The wording of a referendum question on foreigner voting rights was presented on Monday, along with three other questions to be put to a vote next year. The questions were presented by a parliamentary commission dedicated to constitutional reform and will form the basis of the draft law. However, until the law is passed in parliament, changes to the text are still possible. The referendum questions will be asked in French, German and Luxembourgish; however, on Monday only the French version was publicly available on chamber.lu
The conservative party that has ruled Luxembourg for most of the last 70 years has acknowledged that other parties are likely to form the next government and end Jean-Claude Juncker’s 19-year term as prime minister. Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) has led governments for all but five years since World War Two, but lost three seats in an election on Sunday to leave it with just 23 in the 60-seat parliament. The Socialists, who quit Juncker’s government in July, blaming him for failing to curb abuses of power by the secret service, now look set to form a coalition with a different center-right group, the Democratic Party, and the Greens. The three parties together have a slim majority of 32 seats. Juncker, the EU’s longest-serving head of government, has been a central figure in Europe’s debt crisis, leading the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers until early this year. His departure would be unlikely to herald radically different policies on Europe or on the economy, among the healthiest in Europe.
Europe’s longest-serving leader Jean-Claude Juncker risked losing power in Luxembourg as three rival parties were set to begin negotiations on Tuesday to form a coalition without him. The heads of the Liberal and Socialist parties said a day after parliamentary elections they would open talks with the Green party, a move that could see Juncker’s centre-right Christian Social People’s party (CSV) ousted, despite winning the largest share of the vote. The 40-year-old head of the Liberal Party, Luxembourg city mayor Xavier Bettel, told journalists he had been given a “mandate” to open talks on forming an unprecedented coalition of the three parties. “We need different policies to pull the country out of crisis,” he said.
Voters in Luxembourg are going to the polls as Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe’s longest-serving leader, faces his toughest election yet after 18 years at the helm. The snap legislative elections in the European Union’s wealthiest nation per capita follow a scandal over misconduct by the secret service that fractured the coalition government headed by Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV). Its junior Socialist Party (LSAP) partners withheld support when opponents accused the prime minister of having been too busy steering the euro currency through crisis – in his capacity as head of the Eurogroup – to get his dysfunctional intelligence service back on track. Misdemeanours by the SREL secret service, which the Juncker is supposed to oversee, included illegal phone taps, corruption and even dodgy dealings in luxury cars.