The judicial police launched an investigation into the municipality of Wiltz on 3 February 2021. Two years on, what will the impact be on the upcoming elections?
Two years ago, police conducted searches of the town hall, a local construction company, and private residences as part of an investigation into two illegal landfills. Mayor Fränk Arndt was investigated for suspected involvement, along with a construction business and real estate developer who were thought to be complicit.
A year later, on 9 February 2022, investigators carried out fresh searches at the town hall and at non-profit organisation CIGR Wiltz, as well as investigating the homes of a promoter and a private individual. These searches were conducted in relation to an investigation into the construction of a holiday home in Goesdorf belonging to the mayor of Wiltz.
On 12 February 2022, the Diekirch prosecutor's office announced that supplementary judicial investigations had been opened into the matter.
The first dossier targets Fränk Arndt, a promoter, a construction company and an unknown individual for "illegal gain of interests, corruption or traffic in influence".
The second concerns Arndt again and an unknown person for "illegal gain of interests and the infraction to the law of 19 January 2004 concerning the protection of nature and natural resources, respectively to the law of 18 July 2018 concerning the protection of nature and natural resources".
Surprise at the DP
Two years after the first investigations began, the cases are still ongoing. The public prosecutor's office confirmed investigations are ongoing and the investigating magistrate will take all the time they need.
Although the matter is still in progress, it has not hindered Arndt from announcing his intention to stand as lead candidate for the LSAP in June's municipal elections. Mayor since 2009, Arndt told RTL he was not aware of any guilt on his part and would not allow the investigations to influence his actions.
Read also: All you need to know about the 2023 municipal elections
Arndt's announcement of his intention to stand in the elections came as a surprise to some, as rumours of his withdrawal from politics had been circulating for some time. Last year, local DP councillor Jean Jacquemart told the Luxemburger Wort that the whole discussion was superfluous as the mayor had no intention to stand for election in 2023. As this stance is no longer valid, it now remains to be seen how other parties react during the election campaign.
The CSV party, which currently holds a coalition along with the LSAP in Wiltz, has presented its electoral list for June's elections, with three councillors and two aldermen, Patrick Comes and Albert Waaijenberg, counted among the 13 candidates.
Comes said the party intended to distance itself from the investigation and let justice prevail. He continued: "Big projects are underway in Wiltz and daily work must be able to continue unhindered. We will respect the choice of the voters when it comes to the elections."
When asked if the party would rule out a coalition with the DP, Comes responded that they intended only to respect the will of the electorate. The alderman expressed regret that the investigations reported in the media now present Wiltz in a bad light.
The DP, represented by councillors Amel Cosic and Jean Jacquemart in the municipality of Wiltz, has not yet published its list of candidates, expecting to do so in March. The party is undecided over appointing a lead candidate, although Cosic is the most likely name to appear at the head of the list, while Jacquemart intends to step down in June.
Cosic said he was surprised to hear of Arndt's intention to run again, but declined to comment further as the investigations were ongoing. Overall, the DP did not want to involve themselves in other parties' issues, saying that voters should paint their own picture and decide from there.
No Green representation
The Green Party is unlikely to run in Wiltz for these elections, said MP Stephanie Empain, as the party lacked potential candidates in the area.
With just three parties on the ballot, and a CSV-DP coalition unlikely at this stage, Arndt's chances of being re-elected mayor are not so slim as one might think.
It remains to be seen how local voters evaluate the LSAP mayor's investigations, and whether the judiciary reaches a conclusion before the elections take place. Until then, the presumption of innocence applies.