The year 2023 will be a watershed moment in Luxembourg election history, as proportional representation will be used in more municipalities than first-past-the-post voting. Ten communes are using the new system for the first time.
On 11 June, municipal elections will be held in all 102 communes in Luxembourg, provided that there are more candidates than seats on the local council. However, finding candidates willing to run on a list proves especially challenging in towns transitioning from first-past-the-post to proportional representation in 2023.
These are the ten municipalities that will use proportional representation for the first time on 11 June: Beaufort, Bettendorf, Esch-sur-Sûre, Helperknapp, Lintgen, Parc Hosingen, Redange-sur-Attert, Rosport-Mompach, Schengen, and Wormeldange.
This is either because the local population exceeded 3,000 during the last legislature, or because they are merged municipalities with a transitional arrangement that expires this year. The Association of Luxembourg Cities and Municipalities (Syvicol) would prefer that the threshold be raised to 6,000 inhabitants in the future.
Syvicol President Emile Eicher explains that the association's stance is based on the reactions of local residents. "We found that the same remarks were coming up," Eicher says, "people said they didn't want proportional representation and would like to stick with first-past-the-post voting." Many locals stressed that they "know their people" and that their communes are too small to introduce political parties, according to the Syvicol president, who adds that "this was pretty much the case with all the merger discussions."
Political parties facing difficulties
Of the ten aforementioned municipalities, only the municipality of Helperknapp is currently sure to have more than one pure party list. While the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) has already revealed its list, led by Patrick Ludwig and Marie Sadler, the Democratic Party (DP) will present its list around outgoing mayor Frank Conrad in the near future.
But people are even reluctant to stand for election on citizens' lists, to the point where voters in the other nine municipalities will likely only have a choice between two lists. Two citizen lists have already been presented in Redange. Lintgen has both a citizens' and a DP list. Meanwhile, in Rosport-Mompach, a non-partisan list has been formed around the outgoing CSV mayor, Stéphanie Weydert, and a DP list, which will include outgoing alderman Josy Schoellen, is expected to follow.
No lists have yet been submitted in Beaufort, Bettendorf, Esch-sur-Sûre, Schengen, or Wormeldange. However, it seems that in the first four communes mentioned, two citizens' lists are likely to oppose each other. A citizens' list endorsed by the CSV is expected to face off against another citizens' list backed by the DP in Wormeldange.
A mayor on the look for rival candidates
There is no guarantee that an election will even be held in Parc Hosingen, a municipality of 4,000 people. To date, there is only one cross-party list called "Är Ekipp Parc Housen," with nine of the eleven candidates being members of the outgoing municipal council. It's uncertain whether there will be a rival list against it. According to outgoing Mayor Romain Wester, this would be a shame: "Let's be honest, I'm standing for election and that by itself means that I would very much like to see an election and for everyone to know where each candidate stands. I think that this would make the rest easier as well, instead of us going to the elections with only one list and being elected by default."
Parc Hosing has always held elections under the first-past-the-post system. Lists can still be submitted until 12 April. On a different note, the system of proportional representation is unusual in that there is no lower limit to the number of people running on a list. In theory, a list can only feature a single person. However, this is not done in practice, as the chances of being elected in this way are almost nil and there is a risk that voters would not take such a list seriously.