Constitution referendum gathers pace with record-breaking petition
Calls for a referendum to update Luxembourg's constitution are growing as a petition demanding a people's vote attracted a record-breaking 18,000 signatures, triggering a debate in parliament, while another process to force a vote is already underway.
The petition surpassed the 4,500 signature threshold required for debate in Luxembourg's lower chamber where deputies have been working on a new constitution for about two decades.
The proposed revisions include changes to Luxembourg's courts and legal system, curtailing some residual powers of the monarchy and giving parliamentarians greater powers to scrutinise the government.
The petition, which has been signed by 18,579 people, calls for a people's vote on the first chapter of the revised text, which deals with Luxembourg’s legal system.
The main opposition party, the Christian Democrats (CSV), had said it would join the Left (déi Lénk), the Pirate party and the right-wing ADR to endorse a referendum if the petition garnered 25,000 signatures.
The CSV, which co-drafted the new text together with the government parties and whose votes are needed to pass the changes in parliament, took an unexpected U-turn last month when it said it would support a referendum, bowing to public pressure.
The coalition parties – the Democratic Party (DP), the Social Democrats (LSAP) and the Greens (déi Gréng) – also promised a referendum on the new text in their manifesto pledges ahead of the 2018 elections, but later backtracked.
While the petition will be debated in parliament, a separate process is already underway that may also force a people's vote. Between 19 November and 20 December, people who are eligible to vote at a Luxembourg national election can add their names and signatures to a list at their local communes. If 25,000 people do so, a binding referendum will be held on the first chapter of the constitution within six months.
Should this also fail, deputies will have the last word on whether Luxembourg should update its constitution which dates back to 1868 - making it one of the oldest in the world. A two-thirds majority is required to pass the changes.