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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Luxembourg, a Constitutional Monarchy under a system of Parliamentary Democracy

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has been a sovereign and independent State since the Treaty of London was signed on 19 April 1839. The country is a parliamentary democracy in the form of a constitutional monarchy characterized by the fact that it is the only Grand Duchy in the world. The crown is handed down through the House of Nassau.

The three Branches of Power

As in many countries, the separation of powers is flexible in Luxembourg. Like all parliamentary democracies, there are many links between the legislative and  executive branches, the judiciary alone remaining completely independent.

Legislative power

Legislative power resides in the joint action of Parliament (Chambre des députés), Government and Council of State. Each entity serves a wholly separate function.

Parliament is made up of 60 Members of Parliament (MPs) elected for a 5-year term by means of mixed one-person-one-vote suffrage and a system of proportional representation. Its primary function is to vote on bills. The Members of Parliament also possess a right of parliamentary initiative which is exercised by tabling private bills.

The Parliamentary Committee for controlling budget implementation, which is chaired by an opposition MP, the Audit Court and the Ombudsman are all bodies assisting Parliament in the exercise of its right to inspect the administration of the State.

Gouvernement ,

The Government has a right of initiative in legislative matters known as Governmental initiative, which allows it to table draft bills. After being examined by the Council of State, draft bills are put to the vote before Parliament, where the Government normally holds a majority. After the parliamentary vote, the Grand Duke exercises his rights of assent and of enactment. The legislative procedure concludes with the publication of the legislative text in the compendium of legislation known as the Mémorial, whereupon the text acquires its legal status.

The Council of State is composed of 21 Councillors. State Councillors are formally appointed and dismissed by the Grand Duke on proposals by the Government, Parliament or the Council of State.

In Luxembourg’s unicameral system, the Council of State exerts the moderating influence of a second legislative assembly. It is required to voice its opinion on all items of legislation, namely on all draft and private bills tabled before the Chamber prior to voting by the deputies. Its opinion must entail a thorough examination to ensure compliance by the draft texts with the Constitution, international conventions and the general rules of law.  The role of the Council of State is one of persuasion rather than enforcement and is therefore advisory in nature.

Its main tasks include:

  1. giving its opinion on all draft and private bills;
  2. examining any draft Grand Ducal regulation submitted to it, except urgent cases;
  3. deciding whether to waive the second constitutional vote, that is to say the second Parliamentary vote cast at least three months after the first vote by the Chamber of Deputies. Its refusal of the waiver is tantamount to halt the legislative process for a period of three months but does not amount to a right of veto.

Executive power

The Grand Duke is the Head of State. His inviolable status means that he cannot be charged or prosecuted. The Grand Duke enjoys complete political immunity and political responsibility lies with ministers. Indeed, any measure taken by the Grand Duke in the exercise of his constitutional powers must be countersigned by a member of the Government who assumes full responsibility. Moreover, any legislative document signed by the Grand Duke must have been submitted for prior consideration to the cabinet.

Grand-Duc Henri ,
ZoomGrand-Duc Henri

HRH Grand Duke Henri, eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg, was born on 16 April 1955.

He went on to study political science at Geneva University (Switzerland).

In 1974, Prince Henri enrolled at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England, which awarded him his officer’s commission in 1975. Since 1989, he has been an Honorary Major in the United Kingdom’s Parachute Regiment. Currently as Commander of the Luxembourg Army he holds the title of General.

In 1981, he married Maria Teresa Mestre whom he met at Geneva University. Their Royal Highnesses have five children: Prince Guillaume (b. 11 November 1981), Prince Félix (b. 3 June 1984), Prince Louis (b. 3 August 1986), Princess Alexandra (b. 16 February 1991), Prince Sébastien (b. 16 April 1992).

Formally, the Constitution grants the Grand Duke the right to freely organise his Government, i.e. to appoint ministers and secretaries of State, to establish ministerial departments and to confer powers on them. The number of ministerial departments generally exceeds the number of Members of the Government called upon to serve in office, so a single Minister normally holds more than one portfolio.

In practice the Grand Duke chooses the Prime Minister on the basis of election results; the Prime Minister himself then proposes the Members of the Government. The Government appointed by the Grand Duke presents its political programme to Parliament which takes a vote of confidence, thereby giving the newly appointed government a parliamentary majority on which it can rely.

Under the Constitution, the Grand Duke has the right to remove any Member of the Government from office but, in practice, the resignation of a Minister or of the whole Government is tendered by the Prime Minister to the Grand Duke who accepts it.

The judiciary

Under the Constitution, Courts and Tribunals are responsible for exercising judicial power. They are independent in the exercise of their functions. There are two branches of jurisdiction in Luxembourg: the judicial order ( the magistrates’ courts, the district courts and the Supreme Court of Justice) and the administrative order (the administrative tribunal and the administrative court). The Constitutional Court ranks on top of the judicial hierarchy.

Legislative Procedure

Chambre des députés ,
ZoomChambre des députés

Two types of legislative initiative are distinguishable:

  • the draft bill: The preliminary draft of a law is drawn up by the central administration, or the relevant Ministry, approved by the cabinet and then submitted to the Council of State for its opinion. The Government then submits it to the Chamber of Deputies.
  • the private bill: One or more MPs may table a private bill, which is submitted to the Conference of the Presidents of the Chamber which decides on its referral to committee. The text of the proposal is submitted to the Council of State for its opinion and sent to the Government for its position.

Once the Council of State has given its opinion, the private bill is sent to the relevant Parliamentary Committee which examines it and reports to the Chamber.

The Debate in plenary session of the Chamber is conducted in two stages: a general discussion and a discussion article by article. Any deputy may propose amendments.

In Luxembourg’s unicameral system, once Parliament has voted on the draft, it must vote a second time on the whole text after a period of at least three months. It can however dispense with this vote if the Council of State accepts the waiver. If the latter does not give its consent, Parliament must hold a second vote after a minimum period of three months.

The law finally adopted by Parliament becomes absolute only after it has been granted royal assent, enacted by the Grand Duke and published in the "Mémorial" (Official Journal)

The Electoral System

The Chamber of Deputies

The national electorate votes in 60 Deputies every 5 years. If the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved, new elections are held within 3 months of the dissolution. The last legislative elections were held on 13 June 2004.

The results of legislative elections 2004

List 1 - ADR: 9,95% (5 seats)
List 2 - DP: 16,05% (10 seats)
List 3 - LSAP: 23,37% (14 seats)
List 4 – The Greens: 11,58% (7 seats)
List 5 - CSV: 36,11% (24 seats)
List 6 - Déi Lénk: 1,90%
List 7 - KPL : 0,92%
List 8 - FPL: 0,12%

Elections ,

Elections are direct and by secret ballot. Deputies are elected on the basis of a mixed one-person-one-vote suffrage and a party list system with proportional representation. Any Luxembourg citizen who satisfies the legal conditions is entitled to participate in the elections. Voting is compulsory for voters on the electoral registers.

To be eligible, a person must be a Luxembourg national, at least 18 years old and enjoy civic and political rights, which means never having been convicted of a criminal offence.

To stand for election, a person must be at least 18 years old, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy and satisfy the same conditions as those applicable to voters.

The office of MP is incompatible with the duties of Government member, judge or member of the Council of State.

Electoral constituencies

There are 4 electoral constituencies:

  • the southern constituency (the cantons of Esch-sur-Alzette and Capellen), with 23 Deputies
  • the central constituency (the cantons of Luxembourg and Mersch), with 21 Deputies
  • the northern constituency (the cantons of Diekirch, Redange, Wiltz, Clervaux and Vianden), with 9 Deputies
  • the eastern constituency (the cantons of Grevenmacher, Remich and Echternach), with 7 Deputies

Allocation of seats

Elections are held using a party-list system. The distribution of votes is peculiar to Luxembourg law. Voters in fact have a choice: they have as many votes on one or more lists as there are seats to fill per constituency; they can either put all their electoral weight behind the one list or allot their preferential votes to the candidates of their choice. 

The allocation of seats complies with the rules of proportional representation and conforms to the principle of the smallest electoral quotient. This system ensures that small political groups are fairly represented.

The political parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies (2004)

Christian Social Party (CSV) 24 Deputies
Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) 14 Deputies
Democratic Party (DP) 10 Deputies
The Greens  7 Deputies
Action Committee for Democracy and Fair Pensions (ADR) 5 Deputies

European elections

Since 1979, the representatives of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the European Parliament have been directly elected for a five-year term. The Grand Duchy is entitled to 6 representatives in the European Parliament. The date of European elections is set by Grand-Ducal regulation. This regulation may choose the same date for European Parliament elections and general elections Parliament.

Nationals of the European Union have the right to vote, actively or passively, even if they are not living in their country of origin. A series of conditions are attached to this voting right.

To be eligible to vote, one must (art. 3 of the election law from 18  February 2003):

  • be a national of Luxembourg or of another Member State of the European Union;
  • be at least 18 years of age on the election day;
  • enjoy civic rights and not have forfeited the right to vote in the Member State of origin;
  • for Luxembourg nationals, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy; however, Luxembourg nationals domiciled abroad are entitled to a postal vote;
  • for nationals of another Member State of the European Union, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy and have lived there for at least five years.

To stand for election, one must: (art. 285 of the election law of 18 February 2003)

  • be a national of Luxembourg or of another Member State of the European Union;
  • enjoy civic rights and not have forfeited political rights in the Grand Duchy of  Luxembourg or in the Member State of residence or in the Member State of origin;
  • be at least 18 years of age on the election day;
  • for Luxembourg nationals, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy;
  • for nationals of another Member State of the European Union, be domiciled in Luxembourg and have lived there for at least 5 years, at the time the list of candidates was submitted.

People who want to participate for the first time in the European elections must submit their request at their communal administration.

The communes

There are no provinces or departments in the Grand Duchy. The only political subdivision of the country is the commune.

The commune is a legal entity. It manages its assets and raises taxes through local representatives, overseen by the central authority represented by the Minister of the Interior.

There are 118 communes. Each commune has a communal council directly elected for a six-year term by those inhabitants of the commune who are entitled to vote.   The day-to-day management of the commune falls to the mayor, or indeed the municipal council, bodies emanating from the communal council.

In principle, elections are held according to the relative majority system. However, if the number of inhabitants exceeds 3,000, elections are held by party list with proportional representation, along the lines of general elections.

Acting through the Government, the Grand Duke has the right to dissolve the communal council, in which case elections are called within three months of its dissolution.

To be eligible to vote in communal elections, persons must satisfy the following conditions:

  • be 18 years old on the day of the election;
  • enjoy civic rights and not have forfeited voting rights in the Member State or in the State of origin;
  • for Luxembourg nationals, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy;
  • for foreign nationals, be domiciled in the Grand Duchy and have lived there for at least 5 years, at the time of application for registration on the electoral roll.

To stand for election, persons must be Luxembourg citizens or nationals of another European Union Member State, at least 18 years old and have been habitually resident in the Commune for six months and have been domiciled in the Grand Duchy for at least 5 years.

This page was last modified on : 29-12-2004

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