Juncker set to be re-elected as Luxembourg’s PM
Exit polls show incumbent’s Christian Social People’s Party ahead of Democrats
Luxembourg prime minister Claude Juncker attends the state funeral of the late Belgian prime minister Wilfried Martens at Sint Baafs Kathedraal in Ghent on Saturday. Photograph: Mark Renders/Getty Images
Jean-Claude Juncker looked set to be re-elected as prime minister of Luxembourg last night, as citizens of the tiny duchy went to the polls in an early election triggered by a spying scandal in July.
Exit polls were showing Mr Juncker’s Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) ahead, though the opposition Democratic Party (DP) made strong gains in most communes at the expense of Mr Juncker’s party.
Nonetheless a coalition government led by the centre-right CSV possibly in coalition with its former government partner, the Socialist Party (LSAP) is still a likely outcome of the election.
The junior LSAP party withdrew its support from Mr Juncker in July, after a report commissioned by the parliament found that Mr Juncker was “politically responsible” for failing to inform lawmakers of irregularities by the State Intelligence Service, including allegations of illegal phone-tapping, and bribing of officials. The controversy, which dated back to 2004, prompted Mr Juncker to call an election six months early, though he defended his handling of the affair.
Mr Juncker, who was head of the euro group of the 17 euro zone finance ministers between 2005 and January this year, was also accused by opponents of focusing too much on European matters at the expense of domestic politics.
Despite his alleged involvement in the secret service scandal which led to the collapse of his coalition government, Mr Juncker (59) has been consistently ahead in opinion polls ahead of the election, although the Democratic Party, led by the well-known mayor of Luxembourg city, Xavier Bettel, has seen a spurt in support in the last week.
If re-elected, Mr Juncker will continue his reign as the Europe’s longest-serving prime minister, having led the country for almost 18 years. If successful, he will also join Angela Merkel as one of the few leaders to be re-elected by the populace since the financial crisis began.
The CSV party has been the dominant political force in Luxembourg since the foundation of the party in the shadow of the second World War. The centre-right party has consistently been in government, apart from a five-year period between 1974 and 1979.
Last night the CSV looked certain to lose seats, with its support dropping by as much as 8 per cent in some communes. Mr Juncker’s party held 26 out of the 60 parliamentary seats in the last government, with its junior coalition partner, the LSAP, holding 13.
A signatory of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty that led to the introduction of the single currency, Mr Juncker has been a towering figure in European politics throughout his career.
During the election campaign, he denied reports that he may seek the post of European Commission president or head of the European Council next year after the European elections.
With a population of just over half a million people, Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the European Union. It is also the wealthiest nation per capita in Europe. Earlier this year the duchy came under pressure from member states to open up its staunch bank secrecy laws, announcing earlier this year that it would end bank secrecy rules that apply to EU citizens holding money in the country in 2015.