Thursday, October 17, 2013

Luxarazzi 101: The Grand Ducal Family Goes to the Polls

Sunday doesn't only mark the Hereditary Grand Duke's and Hereditary Grand Duchess' first wedding anniversary but it is also election day in Luxembourg. If you are a regular follower of this blog (or Luxembourg news in general), you'll likely remember that the Grand Duke agreed to new elections back in July after the country's government fell apart following the SREL scandal. Earlier this month, Grand Duke Henri dissolved the parliament and now the time has come for the inhabitants of the world's only Grand Duchy to newly elect the 60 members of the Chamber of Deputies.

Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume voting in
the 2011 municipal elections (Photo: RTL)
Among those 238,587 Luxembourgers asked to cast their vote on Sunday are members of the Grand Ducal Family. Every time this happens, there are a lot of people in the world of royal watchers who question just how the Family can do that on the basis that the Brits and a bunch of other royal families don't do it. Well, Luxembourg is Luxembourg and the Grand Ducal Family the Grand Ducal Family so they can decide for themselves and this year is no different than any previous years.

The cour grand-ducale has announced that Grand Duke Jean, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie, Prince Félix, Prince Louis, Princess Tessy, Princess Alexandra and Prince Sébastien will all be casting their votes at the Ratskeller polling station in Luxembourg City. I'm sure that all the other members of the Family who are citizens of the Grand Duchy will also be voting on Sunday as voting is compulsory for voters on the electoral registers in Luxembourg and we have seen most of them meeting their civic duties in the past.

Any Luxembourg citizen who satisfies the legal conditions is entitled to participate in the elections. These legal conditions include being a citizen of Luxembourg, above the age of 18 and to be in possession of one's civic and political rights, which means to never have been convicted of a criminal offence. As the named members of the Grand Ducal Family fulfil all these conditions, there is no law preventing them to vote and so everyone apart from the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess does.

The Grand Duke is required by the Luxembourgish constitution to remain neutral and above politics. According to legal scholar Luc Heuschling, the city of Luxembourg claims that neither the Grand Duke nor the Grand Duchess possess voting rights though there is no legal basis for this claim regarding the Grand Duchess.

Then Hereditary Grand Duke Henri and wife
Maria Teresa at the polling station in 1999
(Photo: Tom Wagner)
In most other European monarchies, royals (in contrast to the monarch and sometimes even them) actually have the right to vote but chose not to do so because it would otherwise damage the impartial image of the royal family though I must admit that I personally don't quite get the logic behind that. Thankfully, the elections in mentioned European monarchies are are both secret and anonymous so simply showing up at a polling station and secretly and anonymously casting your vote doesn't damage that image of neutrality, at least in my humble opinion and the Grand Ducal Family seems to agree with me.

Their understanding originates with Grand Duchess Charlotte who already said in 1919 that she did not want to be separated from her people and share their every joy and suffering. It wasn't until 1945, however, that all members of the Family apart from Grand Duchess Charlotte herself were inscribed into the electoral register. She remained off the list even after she abdicated though both Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte regained their voting rights after his abdication in 2000. That same year, Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa were scratched off the list. In a similar light, Grand Duke Henri has the habit of addressing his subjects as "dear fellow citizens" showing that he considers himself to be the first citizen of the country.

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