Luxembourg votes in early elections

PM Juncker, Europe's longest-serving leader, seeks re-election in snap polls following secret service scandal.

    Juncker, 58, has spent literally half his life in government [EPA]
    Juncker, 58, has spent literally half his life in government [EPA]

    Voters in Luxembourg are going to the polls as Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe's longest-serving leader, faces his toughest election yet after 18 years at the helm.

    The snap legislative elections in the European Union's wealthiest nation per capita follow a scandal over misconduct by the secret service that fractured the coalition government headed by Juncker's Christian Social People's Party (CSV).

    Its junior Socialist Party (LSAP) partners withheld support when opponents accused the prime minister of having been too busy steering the euro currency through crisis - in his capacity as head of the Eurogroup - to get his dysfunctional intelligence service back on track.

    Misdemeanours by the SREL secret service, which the Juncker is supposed to oversee, included illegal phone taps, corruption and even dodgy dealings in luxury cars.

    Rising unemployment

    Polls opened at 8am (06:00 GMT) and are due to close at 2pm as the Liberals and Greens appear poised to make enough gains to enable them to propose a new coalition with the Socialists.

    The election takes place amid signs of voter weariness with Luxembourg's more familiar political faces. In addition, unemployment has risen to almost seven percent and debt has tripled in the last 15 years.

    Aged 58, Juncker, who first became prime minister in 1995, has spent literally half his life in government.

    His CSV party has won every single election in Luxembourg since its establishment in 1944, bar one poll in 1974. But ahead of this vote, held seven months early, it is on tenterhooks.

    Though Luxembourgers deem Juncker competent to continue to steer the state, surveys show a younger generation of politicians increasingly picking up support, notably 40-year-old Liberal Party chief Xavier Bettel.

    Also expected to make gains is Greens newcomer Francois Bausch, who for the past three years has run the Luxembourg town hall with Bettel.

    Juncker is best known in Europe for a tumultuous eight-year stint as head of the eurozone finance ministers Eurogroup, which ended in January.

    After being accused of obsessing over the troubles of the single currency instead of concentrating on the job at home, Juncker promised to refocus on Luxembourg.

    Nine parties in all are running in the elections, from the extreme left-wing Dei Lenk to populist right-wing group ADR.

    SOURCE: AFP


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