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[en] Luxembourg is a small constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Since its 1868 ratification, the Constitution of Luxembourg has been amended 35 times, so the document resembles more and more a patchwork quilt of basic institutions. Yet the past twenty years have seen a consensus amongst Luxembourg’s constitutional players on the need for modernization, motivated by the desire for a more coherent constitution.
Article 114 vests the Chamber of Deputies with the power to initiate and to approve constitutional amendments in a two-step process. This has several consequences for deliberation. First, it is largely restricted to political elites because formal amendment powers rest solely with the Chamber. Second, there is little to no empowered maxi-public deliberation unless the Government supports a citizen consultation.
Following the 2013 parliamentary elections, the new Government planned a two-part referendum on constitutional reform in summer 2015 and in winter 2015. The first referendum was intended to seek popular input on four proposals which voters rejected by large margins, and the second referendum was later scrapped. Nevertheless, this reform process has seen some participatory and deliberative experiments. For the purposes of the present COST Action, three events are of interest.
First, charged by the Chamber of Deputies, the UL’s Parliamentary Studies Research Chair at organized in May 2014 CIVILEX, a citizens’ forum modelled along the lines of a 21st century Town Meeting to discuss each of the four referendum questions. Researchers found that group discussion sometimes produced significant shifts in opinion between the pre- and post-deliberation questionnaires. Furthermore, once experts had cleared up certain misunderstandings, citizens ably discussed the referendum proposals. Despite these largely positive experiences, this deliberative experiment remained an isolated experiment and was not renewed during the campaign leading up to the June 2015 referendum.
Second, given the first referendum results, the Chamber made a renewed effort in 2015 to involve citizens in the constitutional reform process, so it collected proposals via a new web portal - www.ärvirschléi.lu (Your Recommendation) – and subsequently held a public hearing with those who had initiated proposals. The process yielded some participatory and deliberative outcomes, including the elaboration of several constitutional amendments. For instance, Chamber members reached consensus on strengthening the rights of children and of animals compared to their original text. Nevertheless, the webportal was not developed as an online deliberative forum and saw limited, self-selected participation. Consequently, though this was the only concrete involvement of citizens in the constitutional reform, it was the least deliberative of the three exercises.
Third, since the Government had still planned to call a second referendum to vote on the constitutional reform as a whole, the Chamber again tasked the Chair with gauging public opinion. So, in July 2016, the Chaire organized CONSTITULUX, a new citizens’ forum to discuss the entire draft constitution. Citizens i.) raised pertinent questions, ii.) identified short- and long-term concerns and iii.) suggested improvements to the draft articles. One striking output was that participants were more supportive of the proposed constitutional reform. Like CIVILEX, it generated little concrete action from the Government. Moreover, the incidental and experimental nature of these events again meant that there was little maxi-public engagement.
Following the draft constitution’s abandonment in November 2019, it remains to be seen what the future holds for deliberative democracy and constitution-making in Luxembourg.