Wednesday, May 29, 2024

NewsHorizon

Where your horizon expands every day.

European

Xavier Bettel’s final stance


On Sunday, voters will decide the political future of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Bettel has been in power for 10 years, but recent polls indicate that it may be time for him to step down as the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) is currently ahead. This could lead to Luc Frieden, a familiar figure in Brussels as a former finance minister and former president of the industry and services lobbying group Eurochambres, becoming the prime minister as the lead candidate for CSV.

Hold on, however, Luxembourgish politics are always more complex than they seem.

During the last two elections, the political party CSV, which is considered center-right, was the largest, but faced challenges in finding enough partners to secure the 31 parliamentary seats needed to establish a governing coalition. As the polls come to a close, the true battle for power will begin as efforts are made to find suitable coalition partners to lead the Grand Duchy.

To determine the potential outcome of coalition negotiations, pay attention to which minor political parties gain the most support, according to Philippe Poirier, a professor of political science at the University of Luxembourg.

In recent times, Luxembourg has been compared to the fictional village of Asterix, known for its resistance to far-right ideologies. However, there has been an increase in the presence of populist parties, including the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR) and the Pirates, at the Krautmaart, the location of Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies.

Poirier stated that there is a growing divide between the political parties. These parties are not extreme on either side of the political spectrum, but they do voice criticism towards the system’s functioning.

The success of populist parties could potentially end the current alliance between Bettel’s liberal party, the socialists, and the greens. This could also impact whether the new government will consist of two or three parties.

There are several potential choices available among the four main centrist parties, including Bettel’s liberal Democratic Party (DP), the center-right CSV, the center-left Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP), and the Greens.

Luxembourg MEP Christophe Hansen, representing the CSV party led by former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, contends that the leading party in the election should have priority in forming a coalition. The specific coalition formed, whether with the liberals or socialists, will be determined by the number of seats obtained.

Hansen stated that we strongly prefer forming a coalition with only one partner. This makes it much simpler to reach mutually beneficial compromises that drive progress. The current coalition, consisting of three parties, is causing conflict and hindering progress on key matters.

The current ruling coalition may retain their position if they maintain their current number of seats, but there could be a change in the dynamics. The socialist party is currently polling higher than Bettel’s liberal party, potentially allowing for a socialist prime minister.

Feeling unsure? No need to stress. According to Poirier, there are numerous potential scenarios to consider.

European implications

Unlike in last weekend’s Slovak election, Luxembourg’s position on the EU or Ukraine is unlikely to change even if the current coalition gets upended. 

The projected distribution of seats in the National Parliament of Luxembourg.

To access additional polling information from various European countries, go to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls.

However, this will impact the individual that Luxembourg chooses to send to Brussels following the European election in June of next year. According to three unnamed Luxembourgish officials, who cannot speak publicly as they are not authorized, the ongoing coalition negotiations will also determine the next European commissioner.

Should the socialists be removed from power, it is unlikely that Nicolas Schmit, the present European commissioner for employment and social rights, will continue to serve in Brussels during the next term. Despite approaching 70 years of age, Schmit did not dismiss the possibility of a second term in a recent interview with local media RTL, stating that he has never had a concrete plan for his life.

According to Hansen, the Christian Democrats also possess competent contenders. There have been speculations among EU diplomats and officials that Bettel may either become the next Luxembourgish commissioner or pursue another high-level position within Europe if he is no longer in power.

Although the puzzle is complex, Luxembourg, unlike its neighboring countries in the Benelux region, does not typically engage in lengthy coalition talks. By the time European leaders gather in Brussels in mid-December, it will be evident whether or not Bettel will remain at the European Council meeting.

According to diplomats closely monitoring leaders’ meetings, they will certainly feel the absence of his spirited contributions. A notable instance was when Bettel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte openly disagreed with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán regarding LGBTQ+ rights. During this incident, Bettel had to clarify to Orbán that being gay is not a choice, it is simply who he is.

However, the opposition has responded to these interventions with dismissal. Hansen commented, “He is skilled at putting on a show and is certainly a strong speaker. However, I’m not convinced that his actions have had as much impact on substance as they did with Juncker.”

Reporting was done by Vincent Manancourt.