What is the influence on the opposition in parliament?

The new Luxembourg parliament was recently established, following the elections last month. Seat changes have been minimal and the only real new development when it comes to the parliament is the entering of the Pirate Party with two MPs.

The government majority of the Democratic Party (DP), the Luxembourgish Socialist Workers Party (LSAP), and the Greens (déi Gréng) will remain in power, while the centre-left Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) will continue to be a strong opposition force.

But what exactly is a “strong opposition” in Luxembourg?

Luxembourg’s electoral system is very focused on individuals, meaning it encourages voters to act according to the so-called “panachage” system.

Voters can choose to vote for a party or to distribute their votes according to the amount of seats in their districts, between different parties. For example, a voter can choose to vote for two communists, three liberals, five socialists, one environmentalist, and four pirates. This has made campaigns very individualised, since even lead candidates can be overtaken by newcomers as voters hold power over who comes in first on any party’s list.

Needless to say that the parties don’t like the system, while voters do so quite significantly.

The question, on a political level, is therefore how visible opposition leaders can actually be.

Take Gaston Gibéryen: the ADR politician has never been in government in his political career (and given the socially conservative positions of his party, probably never will be), but he is a household name whose seat will be guaranteed as long as he chooses to run for office. Gibéryen benefits from the view that his voice is needed in opposition.

The CSV opposition struggles with its positioning. Claude Wiseler, Viviane Reding or Martine Hansen have been in a ruling majority and in opposition, and clearly the latter hasn’t been good for them electorally. In Luxembourg’s election, incumbent government ministers do have a clear advantage, since they are more visible for and involved with the man on the street.

This is why municipal elections matter: they provide significant visibility to those wishing to rival the incumbent government. His position as mayor of the Luxembourg City is the precise thing that catapulted Xavier Bettel to his current post of prime minister.

Overall, Luxembourg politics does not have deep-rooted ideological differences. The four major parties aren’t in much disagreement, if you take a look at the actual votes. Most votes in the chamber are actually decided unanimously.

On a mere technical level, the opposition is also weak: it cannot hold inquiries or trigger any type of public vote outside of public petitions (those would also just trigger a public debate with the petitions committee).

It traditionally votes against the government’s budget and the constitution of the government itself, but its parliamentary work is hardly noticeable in the five years leading the next election. Ruling parties would allow opposition parties too much political credit if they were to allow any proposed law or significant opposition amendment to pass.

All in all, the only chance for a Luxembourgish opposition party to hold steady and show media presence.

This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.

Pictures are Creative Commons.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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