Not only do they manage their staff, but they also run an election campaign: entrepreneur-candidates aim to get involved in the political life of their local authority in addition to their sometimes demanding professional duties.
In the capital, many shopkeepers are standing for election, like Anne Kaiffe. She’s on the DP list and is the owner of her family’s butcher shop, which has 19 employees. “We lack entrepreneurs and self-employed people in active politics, and I find that most people involved in politics don’t have the grassroots experience to appreciate the situation,” she points out.
Formerly a member of the Young Liberals (JDL), she is fully involved in the campaign and has a desire to promote the entrepreneurial spirit of younger people, but also to make her voice heard in a sector where rents tend to skyrocket.
As shopkeepers, we get more feedback from the public about how they feel than a politician, because there’s less of a barrier.
“I feel concerned by the issues of public safety, but also by the need to revitalise the town,” says Jean-Marie Hoffmann, owner of the eponymous bakery chain, which employs 275 people. He is a candidate on the CSV list. “As shopkeepers, we get more feedback from the public on how they feel than a politician, because there is less of a barrier.”
In the hotel and catering sector, Alexandre De Toffol employs 150 people in his various establishments, including Bella Ciao and Pop-Up Hertz, right in the centre of town. “Recently, I’ve been very affected by the lack of security in the city centre, as well as at the railway station and Bonnevoie,” stresses the DP candidate. In his view, the strength of an entrepreneur in politics lies in being solution-oriented: “A company director analyses the situation and takes the best decision pragmatically to ensure the good of his company and his employees.”
The self-employed in the race
Many independents are also represented on the lists. This is the case, for example, of Adelio Silva on the déi Lénk list in Schifflange. This Cape Verdean by birth entered politics ten years ago as a member of LSAP in Luxembourg City. “I arrived in Luxembourg in 1995 and over time I saw that the level of well-being offered by the country was tending to diminish little by little,” confides the maker of the gin brand ‘The Groom.’
In Mamer, Pierre Matgé has gone from being a supporter to a candidate for LSAP. The professional photographer set up his production company with his partner Dan Schank two years ago. “At work, I have to listen to my clients, my employee and I have to compromise. In a communal spirit, you have to do the same with the citizens and a possible coalition partner,” he analyses. In his view, the two worlds also share many similarities in the management aspect.
Housing represents a significant political issue in Luxembourg, and there are many real estate professionals on the electoral lists. In Echternach, estate agent Patrick Denter is standing for election for the fourth time. Involved in various municipal commissions, he believes that housing in his municipality benefits from many affordable housing projects. “We need technocrats in a municipal council, but also more flexible people to react to the needs of everyday life,” says the LSAP candidate.
In Dudelange, Lajla Kapetanovic-Licina runs Bau4U, a construction and development firm with four employees. For her, involvement in politics allows her to bring her point of view not only as a businesswoman, but also as a mother. “If you do a job with passion, it’s never really difficult,” says the LSAP candidate.
Determined to contribute to public affairs
The support and delegation of tasks to trusted right-hand men and women is also a recurring theme in discussions with these employer-candidates. This was the case, for example, of Gary Kneip, Fokus candidate in Differdange and director of Liewen Doheem, a homecare company with 80 employees.
For Dejvid Ramdedovic of the CSV in Esch-sur-Alzette, “business leaders face daily challenges but have an understanding of economic mechanisms that can be invaluable in the political decision-making process,” argues the boss of five employees in the accountancy firm ITD Sàrl.
A municipality and a company each have a strategy and a future that must be sustainable.
The managing director of Firce Capital Romain Muller has also chosen to get involved in the political life of the municipality where he has lived for 12 years, Garnich. Interested in housing, the manager of 30 employees in four different countries hopes to contribute his local knowledge. “A municipality and a company each have a strategy and a future that must be sustainable. On the other hand, the scope of decisions is different, since in a company they are limited to colleagues, whereas in a municipality they impact on all the members of the family,” analyses the candidate on the only list running in this rural municipality.
“We will try to get a second mandate”: Barbara Agostino is leading the DP list in Petange. The former crèche manager who has become the operator of the Kugener fairground restaurant says she follows a methodical schedule made over two months to juggle her two commitments. “Politicians and managers are complementary, the same qualities are required but the difference is that a minister or mayor is a fixed-term contract,” smiles the manager of 120 employees.
Last but not least, the déi Gréng party includes in its ranks a number of entrepreneur-candidates such as Luc Nothum in Bascharage (Optique Nothum), Karine Fernandes in Esch-sur-Alzette (CariHome), Mohammad Khair Arrab in Pétange (Invoport) and Stéphanie Lamberty in Steinfort (Kilogram).
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.