Election preview: Luxembourg

After losing its long-serving prime minister in July to a spy scandal, Luxembourg votes tomorrow on whether to give him another chance.

Jean-Claude Juncker, of the centre-right Christian Social People’s Party (CSV), has been at the head of Luxembourg’s government since 1995, longer than any other elected leader in the world. His party has never actually enjoyed a majority in its own right, but since well before Juncker’s time it has always had the largest share of seats and has been able to choose between the centre-left and the liberals for a coalition partner.

In fact the CSV has only been out of government once since its formation, for a single term in the 1970s.

So Luxembourg, which sits at the heart of the European Union and regards itself as something of a model – if very small – European state, also has, incongruously, some of the appearance of a one-party state. The big question for tomorrow is whether that will change.

At the last election, in 2009, the CSV won 26 of the 60 seats in the National Assembly. The centre-left came second with 13, and duly joined a coalition government until it broke ranks earlier this year over the scandal. On the opposition benches were the Democratic Party (liberals) with nine seats, Greens with seven, Alternative Democratic Reform (a conservative eurosceptic party) with four, and a single MP from the far left.

Voting is by proportional representation within four multi-member constituencies of varying size. Each voter gets multiple votes based on the number of MPs to be elected, so the total number of votes looks alarmingly large (over three million last time), but the number voting will only be around 200,000. Results should appear at this site sometime on Monday morning, Australian time.

Although its political history has been very stable, as a small state, Luxembourg is potentially liable to substantial swings of opinion based on small numbers of votes. With Juncker’s image badly dented, it seems likely that this time the centre-left, liberals and Greens will win a majority between them, and they may be able to put together a government that excludes the CSV.

For about the last two years the movement in European elections has been generally towards the left. Last month, when Norway, Germany and Austria went to the polls, that momentum appeared to have stalled. Luxembourg, for all its anachronistic ways, might be a sign of whether that appearance is real – or whether there are still gains to be made for the left.


*UPDATE* (Sunday lunchtime)

There’s now a BBC preview of the election available. It comes to much the same conclusion that I had in the second-last paragraph above:

But the centre-left, the Liberals and the Greens are now hoping to win enough seats to form a coalition government.

With Mr Juncker’s image badly dented, there is the possibility that this time they will win a majority between them, putting together a cabinet that excludes the centre-right, the BBC’s Europe correspondent Christian Fraser reports.

It also includes something I didn’t know, namely that polls close in the early afternoon, or 11pm this evening eastern Australian time. So everything should be cut and dried by the time Australians wake up tomorrow.


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