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Author Topic: Luxembourg Referendum - June 7, 2015  (Read 2611 times)
Sir John Johns
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« on: June 06, 2015, 02:43:06 pm »

A consultative referendum will be held on June 7, 2015 in Luxembourg.

The referendum, the fourth in Luxembourg history, has been called by the current government (made up by the Liberal DP, the social-democrat LSAP, and the green Déi Gréng) as part of the ongoing constitutional process launched by then-Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker (member of the Christian-Democrat CSV). The ultimate goal of the constitutional process is the rewriting of the Constitution of 1868 which has been distorted by numerous ad hoc constitutional reforms and whose terminology is quite outdated.

The new Constitution is intended to be more relevant to the current political situation and will include a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a clarification of the powers and the succession rules of the monarchy. The drafting of the new Constitution is planned to be concluded in 2017 when the text will be put to a bidding referendum.

The main player in the constitutional process is the Chamber of the Deputies, the unicameral legislature, which is rewriting the Constitution, since several years now, with a two-thirds majority required for any constitutional change to be include in the draft Constitution.

The two-thirds majority provision has forced the successive governments to seek a large consensus among political parties on the political reforms to be included in the draft Constitution. It also means that the process is not quick and, as written above, is intended to be terminated only in 2017, about a decade after its beginning.

In accordance with the electoral promise he made to involve the Luxembourgian citizens into the policy-making process, current Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has decided to put three (initially four) propositions to a consultative referendum. If approved, these propositions could became part of the draft Constitution.

It should be noted that, while being supported by the government, the three propositions aren't supported by a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and could theoretically still been rejected by parliamentarians even if approved by voters.

In any case, the government has indicated that it would respected the results meaning that if the propositions are rejected there will be no attempt made to include them in the draft constitution.

Two of the three propositions (reducing the voting age to 16; voting rights for foreigners) aim to address the so-called democratic deficit faced by the Grand Duchy as a growing share of the population in Luxembourg isn't entitled to elect the deputies. The last proposition is the introduction of term-limits for ministers.

A fourth proposition, concerning the public funding of religions, was dropped after the government had reached an agreement with representatives of the religious institutions.

In detail, the three propositions are:

1. Lowering the voting age to 16

“Do you approve of the idea that Luxembourg people aged between sixteen and eighteen should have the right to optionally register on electoral lists in order to participate as voters in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, the European elections, municipal elections and referendums?”

As indicated, if that passed, electoral registration and voting (currently mandatory for any Luxembourg citizen between 18 and 75) would be optional for people under 16, an exemption that have been criticized. The proposition is supported by the three members of the ruling coalition (DP, LSAP, Déi Gréng), by the far-left Déi Lénk, and by the Pirate Party.

It is opposed by the Christian-Democrat CSV and the conservative, traditionalist and senior-interest party ADR.

2. Right of foreigners to vote

“Do you approve of the idea that residents without Luxembourg nationality should have the right to optionally register on electoral lists in order to participate as voters in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, on the double condition that they have resided at least ten years in Luxembourg and that they have previously participated in European or municipal elections in Luxembourg?”

Like for people under 16, if it passed, the registration and the voting would be optional for the foreign residents who meet the mentioned criteria of a ten-year residency and prior participation in a European or local election (foreigners could voted in both elections since recently). Foreign residents would also still remain unable to run for deputy.

Predictably, it has turned into the most polarizing proposition put to referendum. According to the government, the right of foreigners to vote will help to face the “democratic deficit” currently faced by Luxembourg.

Indeed, partly due to restrictive conditions for naturalization, foreign residents account for a growing share of the Luxembourg population: in 2015, they account for 46% of the total population against 26% in 1981. This is one of the highest rate in the world, only beaten by countries of the Persian Gulf.

According to latest estimates, the foreign residents already constitute a majority of the population in the three most-populated cities of the Grand Duchy: respectively 69% in Luxembourg City, 56.2% in Esch-sur-Alzette, and 54.8% in Differdange.

As a consequence, only 54.5% of the population over 18 is entitled to vote in legislative elections which poses a problem as the distribution of seats among the four electoral constituencies is determined by the residing population and not by the number of registered voters. This has led to a growing discrepancy between the population the deputies are supposed to represent in the National Assembly and the actual electorate.

Another issues with the current situation is that the electorate, when compared to the total resident population, is older and disproportionately unemployed or employed in the public sector.

According to a study made by the STATEC, the national statistics office, the average age of Luxembourg electorate is 49.6 and 24.3% of the voters are over 65. Only 49.9% of the voters are employed, the rest being retirees (21.1%), homemakers (12.6%), or students (7.8%).

Among those employed, 51.1% are employees in the private sector, 36.3% are civil servants, the rest being either self-employed either apprentice. The same study reveals also that, among those employed, 44.3% worked in the public and parapublic sectors (public administration, education, health, social welfare).

The idea behind the proposal is thus to improve the political representation of the employed population and of private sector employees, especially construction and private service workers.

According to the same study, if the proposal passed, the number of registered voters could ultimately increase of about 105,000 (assuming that every foreign resident fulfilling the criteria registers on the electoral rolls). In this case, foreign residents would account for 27.6% of the voters and about 78% of the population over 18 (against currently 54.5%) would be therefore entitled to vote in legislative elections.

Similarly, still assuming that every foreign resident fulfilling the criteria registers on the electoral roll, the share of employed among voters would rise from 49.9% to 52.4% and the share of retirees would conversely decrease from 21.1% to 19.7%.

Among the voters who are employed, the share of private sector employees would rise from 51.1% to 59% while the share of civil servants would decrease from 36.3% to 26.8%; the share of employed voters working as international civil servant would rise from 0.6% to 2.8%. The share of employed voters working in public and parapublic sectors would fall from 44.3% to 35.3% while the share of those working in trade, transport, and HORECA (hostels, restaurants, and bars) would rise from 17.1% to 19% and the share of those working in construction sector would jump from 3.9% to 7.3%.

More generally, the share of voters working in the private sector services would rise, the share of those working in industry would slightly decrease while the share of those working in public administrations and agriculture would significantly decrease.

The foreign voters would be younger than the current voters with an average age of 46.7 against 49.6, but also less educated with 29.8% having only a primary education level against 16.8% of the current electorate.

The extension of voting rights to foreign residents would mostly favored the Portuguese nationals who would account for 42.1% of the potential new voters. They would be followed by the Italians (12.7%), the French (11.2%), the Belgians (8.2%), the German (5.6%), the nationals having the citizenship of another UE country (10.6%), and the nationals having the nationality of a non-UE country (9.4%).

The proposition of granting voting rights to foreign residents is backed by the DP, the LSAP, Déi Gréng, Déi Lénk, and the Pirate Party. It also has received the support of the Catholic Church, of the employers' organizations, and of the private sector trade-unions.

On the other side, the proposition is opposed by the CSV (but not by its young wing which actually campaigned in favor of the proposition) and by the ADR. The main public sector union has also expressed its opposition to the proposition.

The CSV has accused the government of splitting the Luxembourg citizens with an inopportune referendum and has pointed out that voting rights should remain attached to Luxembourg nationality. It has also stressed that the lack of political representation for foreign residents should be addressed by easing the naturalization process rather than by giving voting rights to foreigners.

While the conditions for naturalization have been quite relaxed these later years, notably in 2008 when dual citizenship became possible, there are considered by most political parties as still too restrictive. Tellingly, in 2012, the wife of the heir apparent to the Luxembourg throne needed the voting of a special law to acquire the Luxembourg nationality as she didn't fulfilled the legal criteria (residency time, knowledge of the Luxembourgish language) to obtain it in the normal way.

In this regard, the CSV has proposed a bill to introduce jus soli, to reduce the residency time requirement from seven to five years, and to permit the acquiring of nationality by marriage without any residency time requirement.

The biggest barrier in the naturalization proceedings remains however the mandatory Luxembourgish language test as many foreign residents have little incentive to learn a language that is practically useless not only outside the Grand Duchy but also inside it as both German and French languages are widely spoken in Luxembourg.
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2015, 02:45:51 pm »

The campaign of the CSV has been however criticized for the negativity of its slogan (“Beware”) and even several members of the party were uncomfortable with it.

The ADR has been more direct and has demanded that members of foreign communities of the country didn't take part into the political debates over foreigners' voting rights. Perhaps more appropriately, it has criticized the lack of neutrality of the government and its heavy involvement into the referendum campaign.

3. Term limits for ministers

“Do you approve of the idea of limiting to ten years the maximum period during which someone can continuously be part of the government?”

This proposal has been made mainly in response of the endless reign of Jean-Claude Juncker who has been uninterruptedly minister for almost thirty years and prime minister for almost twenty years.

It is propped up by the DP, the LSAP, Déi Gréng, and Déi Lénk and is presented as aiming to renew the political personnel and prevent the emergence of professional politicians.

For the opponents to the proposition, which include the CSV, the ADR, and the Pirate Party, such a measure would go against the will of voters with most popular ministers being prevented from continuing in office. It has be also claimed that Luxembourg is a too small country to afford renewing its ministerial personnel every ten years and that there isn't a large pool of competent politicians in the Grand Duchy. Critics have also pointed out that such measure would have prevented the emergence on the European political scene of statesmen like Jacques Santer or Jean-Claude Juncker.

If such proposition passed, the current foreign minister, Jean Asselborn (LSAP), would be forced to resign.

Summary of the stances taken by the various political parties:

Ruling coalition (DP, LSAP, Déi Gréng): "Yes" to the three propositions

Déi Lénk: "Yes" to the three propositions. The party has however criticized the lack of inclusion of questions about the prerogatives of the Grand Duke, the inclusion of the term “social state” in the Constitution, and the enshrinement in the Constitution of the right to the protection of personal data. Déi Lénk was also very angry with the drop-out of the question over church-state relations.

CSV: "No" to the three propositions. The youth wing however supported a “yes” to foreigners' voting right.

ADR: "No" to the three propositions.

Pirate Party: "Yes" to lowering the voting age and foreigners' voting right, "No" to term limits for ministers.

KPL: the Communist Party has urged their voters to not answer to any question (thus casting a blank vote), claiming that the referendum is a “farce” and complaining over the absence of questions over truly important matters like the abolition of the monarchy, the enshrinement of social, environmental, and animal rights in the Constitution, the separation of the church and the state, and the establishment of a single electoral constituency to replace the current four constituencies, thus enabling the KPL to have deputies elected.

PID: no idea.

There aren't many polls in Luxembourg and they are considered as pretty unreliable. Apparently the The most recent poll I find is dated from May 6, 2015most recent one[/url] has been published on May 6, 2015, and give the following estimates:

Lowering the voting age:

Yes 28%
No 68%
undecided 4%

Foreigners' vote:

Yes 40%
No 53%
undecided 7%

Term limits for ministers:

Yes 46%
No 44%
undecided 10%
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2015, 07:32:20 am »

Polls are now closed. First results will come in the afternoon and the definitive results are expected by 18:00 GMT.

Website to follow the results: http://www.elections.public.lu/fr/referendum/2015/resultats/index.html
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Tender Branson
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2015, 09:34:40 am »

Luxemburg voted NO on all 3 proposals by huge margins of 70-75%.
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2015, 10:55:05 am »

So far, with 99 out of 105 communes counted, the "No" to the three questions is winning everywhere in a landslide. Judging by partial results, it will also win in Luxembourg City and Esch-sur-Alzette by large margins.

Michel Wolter, a leading CSV politician, has called for the resignation of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2015, 11:50:33 am »

Final results:

Question 1 (voting age at 16):
Yes 19.13%
No 80.87%

Question 2 (voting rights for foreigners):
Yes 21.98%
No 78.02%

Question 3 (term limits for ministers):
Yes 30.07%
No 69.93%
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2015, 03:46:48 pm »

Yes this was a bad idea to go to referendum.
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2015, 04:11:43 pm »

Was the government endorsing a yes vote in all of these? Might they resign because the result was so bad?
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2015, 05:35:51 pm »

Yes, the government and the three parties that composed it (DP, LSAP, Déi Gréng) supported and campaigned for a "Yes" to the three questions.

I have no idea if the government would resign, but Bettel has now a clear problem of legitimacy. The very high number of "no" indicates that the ruling alliance has lost a sizeable share of its voters (DP and LSAP are probably the two big losers). Last year, the DP and the LSAP had already scored a big defeat in the European elections as they finished respectively third and fourth, behind Déi Gréng and far behind the CSV.

Both the CSV and the ADR have demanded the resignation of the prime minister, arguing that, back in 1937, Prime Minister Joseph Bech resigned after his proposed legislation to ban the Communist Party was defeated in a referendum, 50.7/49.3. For his part, Bettel has said that the referendum is purely consultative and so he would stay at the head of the government. He has also repeated that the draft constitution will be still put to a referendum.
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Sir John Johns
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2015, 07:41:54 pm »



Forget to indicate on my map that it's the "No" votes as a percent of the total valid votes by municipalities.

Basically, the three proposals were more supported by the voters of Luxembourg City (respectively 74.2%, 67.01%, and 63.46% of "No") and its surrounding urban areas. The proposals got slightly more support compared to the national vote from the industrial city of Esch-sur-Alzette (79.54%, 75.44%, and 66.96%). Conversely, the share of "no" votes was slightly higher than the national vote in Differdange for question 1. and 2. (81.81%, 79.28%) and slightly lesser than the national vote for question 3. (68.42%). The three questions were defeated by the largest margins in the northern rural part of the country.
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