Democratic Party (Luxembourg)

Democratic Party (Luxembourg)
Democratic Party
Demokratesch Partei
Leader Claude Meisch
Founded April 24, 1955 (1955-04-24)
Headquarters 9, rue du St. Esprit, L-1475 Luxembourg Luxembourg
Newspaper Lëtzebuerger Journal
Youth wing Democratic and Liberal Youth
Ideology Liberalism
Conservative liberalism
Political position Centre right
International affiliation Liberal International
European affiliation European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
European Parliament Group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Official colours Blue
Chamber of Deputies
9 / 60
European Parliament
1 / 6
Politics of Luxembourg
Political parties

The Democratic Party (Luxembourgish: Demokratesch Partei, French: Parti Démocratique, German: Demokratische Partei), abbreviated to DP, is the major liberal political party in Luxembourg. One of the three major parties, the DP sits on the centre-right, holding moderate market liberal views combined with a strong emphasis on civil liberties, human rights, and internationalism.[1]

Founded in 1955, the party is led by Claude Meisch. It is the third-largest party in the Chamber of Deputies, with nine seats out of sixty, having won 15% of the vote at the last election, and has one seat in the European Parliament out of six. The party's stronghold is around Luxembourg City;[2] it has provided the city's mayor, currently Paul Helminger, since 1970.

The party has often played the minor coalition partner to the Christian Social People's Party (CSV). In Gaston Thorn, the DP provided the only Prime Minister since 1945 not from the CSV (1974–79). The party is a member of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and Liberal International. The party has been one of the most influential liberal parties in Europe, due to its strength, its regular involvement in government, its role in international institutions, and Thorn's leadership.[3]



Emergence as major party

Although the party traces its history back to the foundation of the Liberal League in 1904, it was founded in its current form on 24 April 1955. It was the successor to the Democratic Group, which had grown out of the major group of war-time liberal resistance fighters, the Patriotic and Democratic Group. The DP spent the majority of the 1950s and 1960s, under the leadership of Lucien Dury and then Gaston Thorn, establishing itself as the third major party, ahead of the Communist Party.

At the time of its foundation, the party had six seats in the Chamber of Deputies. At the following election, in 1959, the DP won 11 seats, allowing it to serve as a minor role in a grand coalition with the CSV and Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP). However, in 1964, the party went back to six seats. In 1968, the DP absorbed the anti-establishment Popular Independent Movement.[4] In that year's election, the party benefited from a tide of moderates shifting from an increasingly radical LSAP,[4] returned to 11 seats, and consequently entered into government with the CSV under Prime Minister Pierre Werner.


Gaston Thorn, shown here in 1975, was the figurehead of the DP for more than two decades. He was the only Prime Minister (1974–79) since 1945 not from the CSV.

The DP remained in coalition with the CSV until 1974, when it experienced a surge in support, to 22.2% of the vote and 14 seats. This political upset gave it the opportunity to enter into coalition negotiations with the second-placed LSAP.[5] Surprisingly, in the negotiations, the DP got the upper hand, securing the most ministerial positions and departments, as well as the premiership itself under Gaston Thorn.[6]

The formation of Thorn's government, however, coincided with the beginning of an economic crisis,[7] and the government was occupied mostly with the restructuring of the steel industry whilst attempting to avoid mass unemployment.[7]

Despite this, the coalition managed to push through major reforms of social policy,[8] including abolishing capital punishment (1974), allowing no-fault divorce (1975) and broadening at-fault divorce (1978), and legalising abortion (1978).[9] In 1977, the government abandoned plans to build a nuclear power plant at Remerschen,[9] of which the DP had been the primary advocate.[10] When PM, in 1975, Thorn sat as President of the United Nations General Assembly.

Since 1979

In 1979, Thorn went head-to-head with Werner, with the LSAP serving a supporting role to the DP.[11] Both the CSV ended victorious, gaining six seats, and the LSAP's loss of three seats made it impossible for the DP to renew the coalition with them. As a result, Werner formed a coalition with the DP, with Thorn as Deputy Prime Minister.[12] In the first European election, the DP won 2 seats: an achievement that it hasn't matched since. In 1980, Thorn was named the new President of the European Commission, and was replaced by Colette Flesch.

The 1984 election saw the DP's first electoral setback in twenty years.[11] The DP lost one seat, standing on 14, whilst the resurgence of the LSAP meant it overtook the Democratic Party once again. The LSAP formed a coalition with the CSV, with Jacques Poos serving as Deputy Prime Minister to Jacques Santer. This was renewed twice again, and the DP remained out of government until 1999.

After the 1999 election, the party became the second-largest party, in the Chamber of Deputies once again, with 15 seats. It also overtook the LSAP in vote share for the first time ever. This allowed it to displace the LSAP as the CSV's coalition partner, with Lydie Polfer as Deputy PM. As a result of the 2004 election, the DP lost 5 seats, bringing its total down to 10. The party also lost its place as the coalition partner back to the LSAP, and has remained in opposition since.


The Democratic Party sits on the moderate centre-right of the political spectrum in Luxembourg. Since the late 1960s, thanks to the secularisation of Luxembourg and the CSV, the party has moved gradually towards the centre, to allow it to form coalitions with either the CSV or LSAP.[13][14] Now, it could be seen to be to the left of the CSV, in the centre, and with more in common with the British Liberal Democrats or German Free Democratic Party than with liberal parties in Belgium or the Netherlands.[13][15] However, the CSV usually prefers forming coalitions with the LSAP to those with the DP, pushing the DP to the economically liberal right.[16]

In economic policies, the DP is a strong supporter of private property rights, free trade, and the free market, although under Thorn's government, the DP greatly increased public sector employment.[17] Taxation plays a major role in the party platform, but it has never held the office of Minister for Finances.[18] It is also a supporter of agriculture, particularly the wine industry.[17] It long advocated the advancement of nuclear power, but scrapped plans to build a plant at Remerschen, and now supports renewable alternatives, although not opposing nuclear power in principle.[10] Indicating its priorities, when in government, the DP has usually or always controlled ministries in charge of Transport, Public Works, the Middle Class, the Civil Service, and Energy.[18]

The DP is the most outspoken party in support of civil liberties. Between 1974 and 1979, it legalised abortion and divorce, and abolished the death penalty.[9] It also focuses its attention on the issues of minority groups, particularly migrant groups, but also homosexuals and single mothers.[17] Unlike the Catholic CSV, the DP is notably anti-clerical, which gives it more importance than its electoral performances would suggest.[14]

The DP has led the CSV and LSAP in becoming more internationalist in outlook, focusing on the European Union, environmentalism, and advocacy of human rights abroad.[17] It is the most vocal supporter of European integration, even in a particularly pro-EU country.[19] The party puts great emphasis on the role of the United Nations, and Thorn served as President of the UN General Assembly. The party is centrist on national security, supporting membership of NATO, but having worked to end conscription.[19]

Political support

The DP has been consistent in its advocacy of the middle class,[17] and consequently has a very distinctive class profile.[20] When in government, the DP has always held the office of Minister for the Middle Class.[18] Most DP supporters are civil servants, white-collar workers, self-employed people, and those on high incomes.[2] This group has been fast-growing, further focusing the party's electoral socio-economic appeal.[15]

The party's most successful areas electorally are Luxembourg City and its wealthy suburbs, where those groups are concentrated.[15] The Mayor of Luxembourg City has come from the DP since 1970, and the party and its liberal predecessors have been out of the office for only seven years since the foundation of the Liberal League in 1904. The city lies in the Centre constituency, where the DP challenges the CSV for the most seats. However, the party also has some traditional following in Est and the Nord,[15] consistently coming second in each.

The party has notably more support amongst young people,[20] whilst the CSV, LSAP, and (recently) the ADR tend to receive the votes of older people.[2] Unlike the CSV and LSAP, the DP isn't affiliated to a major trade union. The party is particularly popular amongst male voters.[2] Despite its anti-clericalism, DP voters are no less religiously affiliated than the general population.[20]

Election results

Below are charts of the results that the Democratic Party (and its post-war predecessors) has secured in the Chamber of Deputies at each election. Timelines showing the number of seats and percentage of votes won are on the right.

Year Vote % Place Seats Place Cabinet
1945 9 3rd Yes
1948 9 3rd Yes
1951 8 decrease 3rd No
1954 10.8 3rd 6 decrease 3rd No
1959 18.5 increase 3rd 11 increase 3rd Yes
1964 10.6 decrease 4th decrease decrease 3rd No
1968 16.5 increase 3rd increase 11 increase 3rd Yes
1974 22.2 increase 3rd 14 increase 3rd Yes
1979 21.3 decrease 3rd 15 increase 2nd increase Yes
1984 18.7 decrease 3rd 14 decrease 3rd decrease No
1989 17.2 decrease 3rd 11 3rd No
1994 19.3 increase 3rd 12 increase 3rd No
1999 22.4 increase 2nd increase 15 increase 2nd increase Yes
2004 16.1 decrease 3rd decrease 10 decrease 3rd decrease No
2009 15.0 decrease 3rd decrease 3rd No


The leader of the party is the President. Below is a list of Presidents of the Democratic Party, and its predecessors, since 1948.

See also


  1. ^ Hearl (1988), p. 392–3
  2. ^ a b c d Schulze (2007), p. 812
  3. ^ Hearl (1988), p. 376
  4. ^ a b "Luxembourg". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2000. Retrieved 17 April 2010. 
  5. ^ Thewes (2006), p. 182
  6. ^ Hearl (1988), p. 386
  7. ^ a b Thewes (2006), p. 186
  8. ^ Thewes (2006), p. 187
  9. ^ a b c Thewes (2006), p. 188
  10. ^ a b Jacobs, Francis (1989). Western European Political Parties: A Comprehensive Guide. London: Longman. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-58200-113-8. 
  11. ^ a b Hearl (1988), p. 382
  12. ^ Thewes (2006), p. 192
  13. ^ a b Dumont et al (2003), p. 400
  14. ^ a b Hearl (1987), p. 255
  15. ^ a b c d Hearl (1987), p. 256
  16. ^ Dumont et al (2003), p. 412
  17. ^ a b c d e Hearl (1988), p. 392
  18. ^ a b c Dumont et al (2003), p. 424
  19. ^ a b Hearl (1988), p. 393
  20. ^ a b c Hearl (1988), p. 390


  • Dumont, Patrick; De Winter, Lieven (2003). "Luxembourg: Stable coalition in a pivotal party system". In Wolfgang C., Müller; Strom, Kaare. Coalition Governments in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 399–432. ISBN 978-0-19829-761-1. 
  • Hearl, Derek (1987). "Luxembourg 1945–82: Dimensions and Strategies". In Budge, Ian; Robertson, David; Hearl, Derek. Ideology, Strategy, and Party Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 254–69. ISBN 978-0-52130-648-5. 
  • Hearl, Derek (1988). "The Luxembourg Liberal Party". In Kirchner, Emil Joseph. Liberal Parties in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 376–95. ISBN 978-0-52132-394-9. 
  • Thewes, Guy (October 2006) (in French) (PDF). Les gouvernements du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg depuis 1848 (2006 ed.). Luxembourg City: Service Information et Presse. ISBN 978-2-87999-156-6. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  • Schulze, Isabelle (2007). "Luxembourg: An Electoral System with Panache". In Immergut, Ellen M.; Anderson, Karen M.; Schulze, Isabelle. The Handbook of West European Pension Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 804–53. ISBN 978-0-19929-147-2. 

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