'It's false to say everyone in Luxembourg lives well'
According to the Migrant Integration Policy Index, the Grand Duchy has the largest share of disenfranchised adults of "any of the developed democracies" due to its high proportion of foreign residents who are barred from voting.
Currently, Luxembourg's population is estimated at 602,005, with 288,963 residents being of foreign nationality – this represents 48% of the population.
In 2015, prime minister Xavier Bettel held a referendum on whether to give foreigners the right to vote in national elections, but the Luxembourgish population rejected this with a whopping 78% 'no' vote. The current government has relaxed the law, making it easier to acquire Luxembourgish nationality.
In the run-up to the national elections on 14 October, Vanessa Challinor of the Luxembourg Times spoke with several foreigners who will be voting in this year's elections. Below is the fourth in a series of interviews we will run over the coming week.
Yvonne Koechig, originally from the US, has already voted several times in previous national elections, as well as local commune elections. She decided that, rather than vote in the US, it was more important to vote in the country in which she has been living and working for nearly 30 years. She has two grown children who were born in the country – Luxembourg is their home.
But she also recognises a unique voting-demographic problem in the Grand Duchy. "The decisions in the country are taken by a minority of people, and many have no voice," she says.
Luxembourg is a microcosm of cultures and societies, and they all contribute – not just economically through taxes but also by hosting cultural events across the country that are open to everyone. There is such richness here in many waysYvonne Koechig
To address the issue of democratic disparity, Koechig believes that a certain period of residency in Luxembourg – be it five years or seven – should be enough to qualify someone to vote. Not having Luxembourgish nationality, she says, shouldn't exclude people from the right to vote.
"The result of the referendum in 2015 speaks volumes," she says. "Many Luxembourgers fear being overrun. But, on the other hand, there are many Luxembourgers who enjoy the multicultural aspect of their country.
"Luxembourg is a microcosm of cultures and societies, and they all contribute – not just economically through taxes but also by hosting cultural events across the country that are open to everyone. There is such richness here in many ways. Luxembourg has such a diverse population, and people with their knowledge and experience can bring something positive to the table."
Koechig is also a big fan of Luxembourg City, the tram and the Green Party.
"I love living in Luxembourg and feel very fortunate to be here and appreciate what I do have. I live in the city without a car, and I am finding the new tram system for getting in and around the city excellent. The new infrastructure is well thought out. The transport minister François Bausch, leader of the Green Party, has done an excellent job.
I like François Bausch. He is modernising and appears very open and thinks of the individual. It is quite amazing what the Green Party have achieved in this coalition.Yvonne Koechig
"I like François Bausch. He is modernising and appears very open and thinks of the individual. It is quite amazing what the Green Party have achieved in this coalition. His engagement with the new tram system, trying to keep cars out of the city, is an excellent example."
But Koechig believes the government could do more to fight poverty in Luxembourg.
"There is too much economic disparity," she says. "The current government fails to recognise the increase in 'working poor' citizens. For many people who have trouble making a living, the government could introduce a basic income policy, which would allow people to work in parallel. It would act as an incentive."
Friends have had to leave
Koechig says she is also concerned about the direction the country seems to be taking.
"I have noticed many changes over the past 30 years and am concerned that Luxembourg is much more money-orientated. It is getting harder and harder for people to get by. It takes a lot of money to live comfortably in Luxembourg, and it is false to say that everyone lives well."
It takes a lot of money to live comfortably in Luxembourg, and it is false to say that everyone lives wellYvonne Koechig
She highlights affordable housing as a major issue where the government has made lots of "empty promises".
"Friends have had to leave the country, as they cannot find anywhere affordable to live," she says.
"This needs to be addressed with the next government, even if it means instituting strict regulations to counter land speculation to be able to ensure the possibility of affordable housing.
"The current coalition does not represent all my beliefs. However, I admire the Green Party – they appear to be people of their word and will work on the environment."
And as for her prediction ...
"I know the Greens will not win a majority. I like the leader of CSV, Claude Wiseler. I find him human and progressive without ditching the core values of the CSV. I would be happy if there were a coalition with the CSV and Greens, for example."
Other interviews in this series ...