Thousands demand referendum on constitution reform

View of Luxembourg City. The grand duchy’s current constitution dates to 1868 although there have been several updates since Photo: Sophie Margue / EU

View of Luxembourg City. The grand duchy’s current constitution dates to 1868 although there have been several updates since Photo: Sophie Margue / EU

A petition calling for a referendum on the reform of Luxembourg’s constitution reached more than 4,500 signatures, prompting a debate in parliament together with representatives of the government.

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.

“The three coalition parties, the CSV and the ADR promised such a referendum ahead of the 2018 election,” the petition calling for the public vote to take place says. “It would be a break of trust if the coalition parties didn’t stick to their promise.”

The petition also called for all changes to be explained to voters in Luxembourg’s three official languages. “A change of the constitution could fundamentally change our country,” the petition author, Gérard Koneczny, says.

Constitutional reforms require a two-thirds majority in parliament, which the coalition parties can only achieve together with members of the opposition. The main opposition party-- the CSV--in 2019 had threatened to block a vote unless elements of the text were put to the public in a consultative referendum.

The buried draft version of the new constitution was developed over 148 meetings of the parliamentary committee overseeing the reform and presented in June 2018. It 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.

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

The ADR opposition party on 8 October organised a protest demanding a referendum on the reform of the constitution, which attracted around 100 people. The online petition--endorsed by the party--has already garnered more than 5,000 signatures with another four weeks left to sign the document.

The protest was hosted outside the “Alen Tramsschapp” where members of all political parties represented in parliament had gathered for a citizens’ information session about the reform.

While non-nationals can sign the petition online, they would not be able to vote in a national referendum.