CSV will back constitution referendum if voters want it

A two thirds majority in parliament is required to pass amendments to the constitution Library photo: Romain Gamba

A two thirds majority in parliament is required to pass amendments to the constitution Library photo: Romain Gamba

Luxembourg’s biggest opposition party has backed calls for a referendum on an ongoing constitutional reform, but only if enough voters demand it. Without the party’s support, the government won’t be able to pass the updated version of the document in parliament.

The reform of the grand duchy’s 150-year-old constitution has been ongoing for more than a decade and hit a snag in 2019 when lawmakers decided to shelve a comprehensive new text--which was set to be put to a public vote--and opted for a piecemeal update of the existing constitution instead.

Lawmakers on Wednesday passed a round of changes in a first vote. For example, the independence of the justice system is being enshrined in the constitution and a new supreme justice council is being founded, a watchdog to ensure the judiciary operates independently.

The CSV supported the changes. Only the ADR opposition party voted against the reform and the MPs from Déi Lénk abstained. However, a second vote on the text is required in three months’ time and the CSV said it would back a referendum before then if a petition receives at least 25,000 signatures.

An official online petition so far has garnered more than 8,400 signatures, enough to be debated with lawmakers and the government in parliament. But Claude Wiseler--the CSV’s president--on Wednesday said it would need at least 25,000 signatures for the party to support the initiative.

The LSAP on Wednesday criticised the fact that petitions are open for signature to anyone with a Luxembourg social security number aged 15 or over, meaning that foreigners who don’t have the right to vote in the referendum can still sign a petition demanding one.

Back in 2019 the CSV had already threatened to block a vote unless elements of the new constitution were put to the public in a consultative referendum.

The reform of the constitution includes new provisions on the separation of powers, the role of the grand duke, the justice system, rights of children and animal rights, and academic freedom, among other topics. It is split into four chapters--justice, organisation of the state, rights and liberties, and Chamber of Deputies and Council of State. The CSV on Wednesday suggested it would be better to organise one referendum on all four chapters, rather than one ballot for each.

Previous updates of the constitution include the abolition of the death penalty in 1971 or the introduction of universal suffrage in 1919.