An expat's view of Luxembourg's political system
Why is it possible to vote in this country even without being a citizen, what parties are there and why does it matter?
Artyom has been living in Luxembourg for almost a year. In June, he and his wife voted in the local elections, but before that he learned about the specific's of the country's electoral system.
Does an expat need to know about politics
This begs the question, should you even vote?
Democracy works when everyone participates.
This is what the former Minister of Family and Integration, Corinne Cahen, told us on Integration Day. After the elections, she went from being a minister to a councilor in Luxembourg.
That seems fair to me. If everyone ignores politics and ignores elections, the authorities will eventually do what they want.
Democracy in general is a fragile thing. It has to be based on the will of the people for it to work, for the people to be protected from authoritarianism. Elections are just one of the ways that people can influence what happens in their country.
In Luxembourg, expats are more informed and more eager to understand. I started collecting and structuring information for myself, then I saw a request in the Luxtoday chat. I decided to share my experiences with others. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive response.
In general, when answering the "why do you need to do this" question, it's worth reminding yourself that it can directly affect your life in the community.
Its look, the realization of certain programs, and the development of infrastructure directly depend on the choice of a politician and his ability to fulfill his promises. Therefore, if you are not satisfied with the results, you give your vote to others.
What's different about Luxembourg
Luxembourg has a very unique case, at least it seems to me that there are very few countries like that.
- The expats are voting
In Luxembourg, expats can vote in local elections. And not only can you vote, you can be elected, which I can't recall in any other country. I didn't go into details because I wasn't going to run for office, but as far as I know, the requirements are very light.
- Moderate campaigning
It looks interesting here. There are no banners with slogans like "For all the good, against all the bad". Most of the time it's just a banner on the street with a portrait, the name of the deputy and the party he or she belongs to. I don't know, maybe it's because they all know each other? Funny thing is that the deputies often put stickers on the banner saying "Merci" to thank the voters. It's quite nice.
- Elections are both a right and a duty
You are obliged to vote for a deputy if you are a citizen. There is a considerable fine if you are not present at the election.
It's a bit different for expats. If they want to vote, they have to register with the municipality a few months in advance. After that, they are subject to the same rules as citizens. Voting is compulsory. I think that put a lot of people off.
How the voting process works
Turns out we had super easy elections in y country. When you have something to compare it to, it makes sense. You come in, you check the box, you leave. This is a little bit different. In fact, it looks and sounds complicated at first, but it takes 5-10 minutes to understand. Then it gets easy.
The first and very important difference is the way the mark is made. I had a chance to work in election commissions in my home country and I saw a lot of things there.There were even times when dirty pictures were drawn in the marking box. And the most interesting thing is that it still counted. Not here.
In Luxembourg, you can only give a cross or a plus. It's also on the merch. It's two crossed lines, that's the correct way to put it. That's it! If you have a circle, a check mark, or a shaded field, your ballot is invalid.
There should be no extraneous marks, dashes, inscriptions, or anything else on the form. Otherwise it will be considered invalid.
The ballot is also invalid if you put anything in it. I have seen many times how pensioners write letters about their hard life in small handwriting on 4 sheets of paper, wrap them in a ballot paper and throw them into the ballot box. And that works for us, but it doesn't work here. There should be no extra items on the ballot.
Another thing that was very unusual about the polling place is that everyone here votes with a pencil. My friends asked if they could use a pen. They were told that they could bring a pen if they wanted, but they were very surprised by the question.
People do not even think that election commissions can redraw, correct, and so on.
And of course the paper itself is interesting. In my country, you get a form, there's a list of candidates, you put a sign in the box next to one of them, and that's it. Here, in local elections, there are several candidates from each party. There can be 7-9-11 candidates and so on. Luxembourg has the most, 27, because it's the capital. The number is always odd to exclude the situation where the votes are exactly equal. Well thought out!
The form itself has a list of parties. And in each party list there is a list of candidates. In front of them, pay attention, there are two columns with cells. It means that you can give not one, but two votes to a candidate. And the total number of votes you have is the number of aldermen to be elected. If there are a maximum of 7 aldermen, then there are 7 votes. If there are 15, then there are 15 votes. And so on.
You can divide the votes however you like, as long as the total number of votes does not exceed the maximum allowed. Less is allowed, more is not. And if you don't want to give 1-2 votes to politicians, there is an option to vote for the whole party and all its candidates at once.
In this case, you can't vote for individual participants. That means you either vote for the party all at once, or divide the votes by hand. There is no other way, the form will not be counted.
Here is the step-by-step voting process once again:
- A few days before Election Day, you will receive a letter telling you where your polling place is. The letter even includes a copy of the ballot;
- You go to the polling place;
- Show a document. In our case, it's a titre de séjour, but you can also show your passport;
- You get your ballot;
- You go to the booth;
- You vote;
- Put the ballot in the box and leave.
Parties of Luxembourg
There are quite a lot parties in Luxembourg, and what surprised and even pleased me is that there are some incredible stories. For example, there is a very real communist party. They do it rough - red banners, sickles, hammers. And the weirdest thing is that nobody suppresses them, nobody arrests them, nobody puts them in jail. People just don't vote, that's all. And it's like they don't have to.
In Luxembourg there are 4 main parties:
- Christian Social People's Party (CSV)
They are Christian Democrats, slightly conservative and emphasize traditional values. They are also the most popular party. They are currently in opposition, as the Democrats, Social Democrats and Greens formed a coalition after the last election.
- Democratic Party (DP)
Liberals usually prioritize the individual, her freedom, opportunities for self-development and self-realization.
- Luxembourgian Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP)
Social democrats put more emphasis on equality, protection of the vulnerable.
- The Greens (déi gréng)
Greens are most concerned with environmental issues, development of renewable energy sources, and thrifty use of resources.
All these parties generally represent the political mainstream and should not be seen as opposite poles. The radical parties are less popular in Luxembourg.
They are followed by the second-tier parties. They usually have few seats: one, maybe two. Nevertheless, they put some pressure on the "mainstream" parties. The second tier includes the Conservatives, the Pirates (I think they are gaining popularity lately) and the Socialists déi Lénk (they are similar to the LSAP, but they have more left-wing views).
There are also small parties that are not represented in parliament at all, but only in some regions. These include the above-mentioned Communists. There are also the Conservatives, who are a separate party for some reason. I don't know why they are kept separate from the CSV, maybe there is some history behind it that I don't know.
There's a new Focus party that I'm really excited about. I came across them, tried to characterize them, and I have the feeling that they are for everything good against everything bad. And in general, I couldn't quite place them in the system of political coordinates. The feeling is that they are just riding on populism for now.
There's also an "awesome" party that I came across while preparing a post for the Luxtoday chat. It literally translates to "We the People". And it's a gathering of some pretty interesting people who have managed to include just about everything you can think of and everything you cannot think of. There are conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccinationists, you name it.
Is it necessary to go to the elections
I think yes. The state gives you, as an expat, the opportunity to somehow influence your life and what goes on around you. If you have that opportunity, you should use it. Here you are not treated like a guest worker. On the contrary, you are a full member of society with slightly limited rights: you cannot vote in parliamentary elections, for example.
It's very cool, I don't know what other country has such a system. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it and just go with the flow.
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