Local elections are held across the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg every six years. The date is set at the second Sunday in October (this year on Sunday 8 October), with national elections set at the second Sunday in June.
The number of communes (municipalities / local authorities) has been reduced to ensure each commune has at least 4,000 residents; the number of municipalities for this year’s election on Sunday 8 October 2017 is set at 103 (in 2011 it was 116).
The elections allow residents to vote local councillors onto the town councils, from where they elect the mayor. The number of local councillors depends on the number of residents in the commune, with seven the minimum: communes of up to 999 residents (7 councillors); 1,000 – 2,999 residents (9 councillors); 3,000 – 5,999 residents (11 councillors); 6,000 – 9,999 residents (13 councillors); 10,000 – 14,999 residents (15 councillors); 15,000 – 19,999 inhabitants (17 councillors); 20,000+ inhabitants (19 councillors, except Luxembourg city with 27 councillors).
Candidates & Lists
The system of nominating the candidates depends on the size of the municipality, as per the Grand Ducal Law of 1 April 2011; for those with 3,000 residents, or less, individual candidates can stand for election and appear on the voting list; here, simply the candidates with the most votes are elected. For larger municipalities, the political parties submit the lists of their candidates, with independents also eligible to stand. The number of candidates per list cannot exceed the number of local councillor positions in that municipality; here, proportional representation applies.
Candidates must register by pre-determined dates. For municipalities of less than 3,000 residents, candidates must write to the incumbent municipal administration at least 30 days before the election date; for larger municipalities, the political parties must submit the list within this period too. In both cases, the lists of candidates must be published “immediately”. Candidates must be resident in the municipality in which they are standing.
As Luxembourg supports both active and passive rights, residents who are not Luxembourgish citizens may stand as election candidates, and even become Mayor, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for voting (see below), following a law passed in January 2010. There is no limitation regarding the number of years that councillors and mayors can serve.
There is currently no law regarding individuals serving as both local councillors as well as members or parliament, or Member of the European Parliament (MEPs), for that matter. However, discussions on such a mandate have started and it is possible that such a law could come into force within the next few years.
Registering to Vote
Anyone, regardless of nationality, is entitled to vote in the local elections as long as they have been resident in Luxembourg for the past five years and are over 18 years of age on the date of the election. They must also have lived in their current municipality for the past six months and are not registered to vote in any other local elections in another country.
Thursday 13 July was the deadline to register to vote. To do so, you need to go to your municipality with proof of identity, proof that you have been resident in the Grand Duchy for the past five years and in the municipality for the past six months (the last two criteria should be furnished by the municipality administration itself).
But before this, on a Saturday in June, many municipalities open their administrative offices to encourage residents, particularly non-Luxembourgers, to vote, in this National Voting Registration Day.
Each voter receives a letter with a ballot list by post around a week before the election, informing them of the venue to vote and voting times (normally 08:00 – 14:00).
Voters can vote for as many candidates as they like, up to the number of elected positions in their municipality. As the List System is practiced in Luxembourg in the larger municipalities, voters can simply vote for one political party’s list or they can vote for candidates across the political parties, including independents.
Voting is compulsory. If someone on the electoral role does not turn up to vote, then theoretically they can be fined; however, nobody has received such a penalty. It is understood that a calculation was made and established that a number of additional judges and barristers would be required to process all relevant cases, but it was decided not to bother due to the cost involved. If someone cannot vote due to holidays or a business trip, they can write to their municipal administration beforehand and can be sent a postal vote; and for those who are sick on the day, a doctor’s certificate will suffice as a valid excuse.
When the votes are counted, the candidates are elected, according to either the number of votes (municipalities with less than 3,000 inhabitants), or proportional representation for larger municipalities. If there are seven seats, then the top seven candidates as regards their votes are concerned, are elected. In the case of a tie for the last seat, a second election is held within two weeks; this happens rarely and in small municipalities.
The election of the mayor and two deputies (Aldermen) is then held between the elected councillors. Luxembourg city has six Aldermen and municipalities with 10-20k residents have two and those with 20,000+ residents have four.
Normally the candidate with the most votes will be voted as mayor, but not always so. In Strassen, for example, the incumbent mayor did not get the most votes but succeeded in the election for mayor. And in larger municipalities, the elected councillors usually form “coalition” alliances.
If a position on the council becomes free during the term of office, a replacement councillor is deemed elected without a by-election. The replacement councillor would either be the candidate who received the next highest number of votes in the local election (for smaller municipalities), or is nominated by the political party of the outgoing councillor.
Remuneration of Councillors
Local councillors, Deputy Mayors (Aldermen) and Mayors are compensated financially for the time they devote to commune business. They have a standard number of hours per week to do their municipal business and for which they are allowed time off from their occupation (enshrined in law). In practice, the state compensates them to ensure that they don’t lose out financially.
Only Mayors of the seven communes of 10,000+ residents (e.g. Luxembourg with 100k residents, Esch-sur-Alzette with 30k, Pétange with 15-20k) are engaged full-time. In Luxembourg city, even the city aldermen are part-time positions (many of them are also Members of the Luxembourg Parliament), as per Articles 2 & 3 of the Grand Ducal Law of 6 December 1989.
What do Local Councils do?
Local councils / municipalities are responsible for a range of issues at a local level:
• Primary schools and dealing with financial assistance for pupils;
• Municipal registry (births, marriages, deaths, civil partnerships);
• Town planning and development (planning authorisations);
• Drinking-water supply and waste-water treatment;
• Waste management;
• Childcare facilities;
• Advisory facilities encouraging residents to participate in local affairs:
• Sporting activities and cultural events;
• Integration measures to encourage contact between old and new local residents;
• Construction and management of subsidised housing.