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Key takeaways from the CSV's election performance
Wahlen 2018

Key takeaways from the CSV's election performance

by Bill Wirtz 2 min. 16.10.2018 From our online archive
The much-anticipated rebound effect of the centre-left failed to materialise, writes Bill Wirtz
Claude Wiseler in happier times Photo: Gerry Huberty
Claude Wiseler in happier times Photo: Gerry Huberty

The much-anticipated rebound effect of the centre-left failed to materialise, writes Bill Wirtz

Lots of concerned faces at the Christian Social People's Party (CSV) election party ... Sunday night and the year 2013 definitely had something in common. Back in 2013, the CSV's electoral campaign tried to capitalise on the successes of Jean-Claude Juncker, now former prime minister and soon to be former European Commission president.

At the time, the slogan "Mir mam Premier" ("us with the prime minister") was brandished across the country, yet the campaign suffered from the secret service scandal that, in the end, broke up the CSV's coalition with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP). After the 2013 election, the three-party coalition of the Democratic Party (DP), the LSAP and the Greens might have come as a surprise to many, but the CSV's losses did not.

But five years have passed since then, and hardly any shadow is cast over the CSV from the ominous secret service affair. Lead candidate Claude Wiseler, former minister of infrastructure under the last CSV government, has nonetheless proved unable to navigate the opposition party to electoral success. Just the opposite. Sunday's result saw the CSV lose two seats in parliament compared with its 2013 result. 

Speculation as to why the CSV was unable to capitalise on discontent with the current government's performance is running high, and a few possible reasons can be noted:

  • The CSV failed to campaign aggressively, as it had the possibility to corner any of the three ruling parties for a potential government
  • Unlike the Green Party, the CSV was unable to provide its voters with actual successes. Once out of government, the centre-left's opposition did not gather a lot of attention
  • Wiseler is a lesser-known political figure, who draws his name recognition from a short period in local politics in Luxembourg City and as a member of Juncker's governments
  • The assumption the CSV would perform better than in 2013 may have led voters to believe that splitting support between CSV candidates and those of other parties – instead of pooling all their votes for the centre-left list – was a safe option

The 'people's parties'

And yet, there is a sense of political continuity in the approach of the CSV. 'People's parties' are generally centrist and propose pragmatic solutions that avoid the extremes on the right and the left. They are accused of lacking clarity and appreciated for their stabilising influence. This is a phenomenon that can be well-observed in France, where the Republican Party transitioned from a people's party to a right-wing conservative movement. In the meantime, Macron's En Marche very quickly transitioned from a centrist political movement to what is now a people's party.

The CSV will likely have to focus more on questions of automation, the digital economy, immigration and identity, key issues across Europe, if it hopes to get closer to the 30-seat mark that would give it a comfortable position in forging coalitions in Luxembourg's parliament.

Bill Wirtz is a political commentator from Luxembourg, based in Brussels. He has published in Le Monde, Le Figaro, Die Welt and The Times of London