“I am deeply touched to have had the honour and the opportunity to be mayor of my town. It’s a task that demands a lot of investment. Perhaps even too much. I have a husband who has always supported me 100% in everything I’ve done. But for a couple, there’s a balance to be struck. And as I slowly approach the symbolic retirement age of 65, it’s time to make way for the younger generation.”
Christiane Brassel-Rausch (déi Gréng), mayor of Differdange since 25 October 2019, has decided to take a step to the side and not attempt to secure her own succession. Where many of her fellow political decision-makers would no doubt have tried to hold on to their seats for as long as possible, this actress by profession has decided to step aside almost as suddenly as her appearance on the political scene in Differdange had surprised.
From fifth position on her list to mayor
Within her own party, Brassel-Rausch only came fifth at the polls in 2017, with a total number of preference votes that was barely more than half that of her leader, Roberto Traversini. That was just a few months before Roberto Traversini’s garden shed ruined his political ambitions, in an affair whose repercussions have still not been resolved. In less than three weeks, at the start of the 2019 school year, Brassel-Rausch had gone from being a local councillor to the mayor.
“When I make a commitment, I take responsibility for my choices. So when I was asked if I was ready to become an alderman and then mayor, I didn’t shy away. Even though I had never had such ambitions and had absolutely no idea of the scale of the task,” she smiles. It’s a position that has earned her the respect of many on the local council, even among the ranks of the opposition.
More than 15,000 votes to win back
Déi Gréng has to contend with a number of other important departures, and her non-inclusion on the lists for these local elections does little to help her party. “The Differdange section of déi Gréng is celebrating its 30th anniversary and the ‘founding fathers’ are slowly beginning to give way,” comments Brassel-Rausch. Brassel-Rausch’s withdrawal, along with those of Traversini and key figures such as Frentz Schwachtgen and Yvonne Richartz, represents a total of 15,000 votes (out of the 53,000 cast in 2017). It is therefore up to the young guard--represented by the list leaders Paulo Aguiar (45) and Manon Schütz (55)--to try to win them back. At the same time, they must do their utmost to put behind them the scandals of recent years.
The Differdange section of déi Gréng is celebrating its 30th anniversary and the ‘founding fathers’ are slowly beginning to step down.
The challenge looks set to be a tough one. Many see the Greens losing two or three of the seven seats they currently hold on the local council (19 seats in all). If this is confirmed, the question will be who will win them back. There are obviously many candidates in the running. Starting with déi Gréng’s coalition partner, the CSV, who could take the spoils.
“Differdange has an electorate that often produces surprises. You only have to look back in time to see the explosion of the DP under Claude Meisch (DP) in the early 2000s or that of the Greens in 2014,” says party leader Tom Ulveling (CSV, 63), who is likely on his last chance to become mayor of the country’s third-largest town (in terms of population). He, like many others, does not see any party really breaking away this time. “It’s likely to be a tight race between déi Gréng, LSAP and us…”
Has the DP got over Claude Meisch’s departure?
The name of the DP was not mentioned by the CSV alderman, despite the fact that the Democrats held the post of mayor between 2002 and 2014. But he is not the only one to make little mention of the Demokratesch Partei. For many people in Differdange, the Demokratesch Partei has still not come to terms with the departure for the government (and the ministry of education) of Claude Meisch, the mayor for those twelve years, and the disputes surrounding his succession. “When he left, he left a big gap that the Greens jumped into. But today, we have a new team and we are ready to return to the majority,” says François Meisch (DP, 46), the head of the list, who is Claude’s brother, as well as Michel (36), who is also on the list.
For its part, the LSAP is also dreaming of regaining the mayorship it led for decades before the turnaround of the 2000s. To achieve this, the main left-wing party is trying to renew its membership. While all the outgoing local councillors are standing in this election, three of the four people heading the list have never held such a position before: Catia Pereira (35), Zenia Charlé (28) and Thierry Wagner (49). “We needed this renewal,” says Guy Altmeisch (64), who completes the quartet.
Three new starters
Behind this quartet of déi Gréng-CSV-LSAP-DP, the two other parties present on the municipal council, déi Lénk and KPL (one seat each), hope to succeed in doubling their tally. But don’t forget about the arrival of three new parties compared to 2017: Piratepartei, Fokus and déi Konservativ. “These are parties with no real locomotive at municipal level,” notes Gary Diderich (déi Lénk, 40). “But they still risk taking votes from other parties,” adds Ali Ruckert (KPL, 68).
Are we likely to see another surprise on election night in Differdange?
Results of the last municipal elections on 8 October 2017: déi Gréng with 35.98%, the CSV with 19.53%, the LSAP with 18.6%, the DP with 12%, the KPL with 5.55%, déi Lénk with 5.25% and the ADR with 3.09%.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.