Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Luxembourg
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 487-488
LUXEMBOURG: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

A small nation amidst the warring powers of Europe, Luxembourg has been subject to the vicissitudes of international politics throughout its history. Its independence was finally recognized in 1867 by the Treaty of London, when the Great Powers guaranteed its neutrality. But the treaty did not prevent Germany from occupying the country in World War I and World War II. After the last war, this land of 300,000 people and 999 square miles of territory abandoned its strict and futile policy of isolation and neutrality, joining with Belgium and the Netherlands in the Benelux customs union in 1948 and becoming a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. Its tradition of domestic political stability has continued in the postwar era, with the three major parties agreeing on basic social and constitutional principles and governing the country through shifting coalitions throughout our period.

Our study begins with the Christian Social Party heading the government with support from the Democratic Party. This coalition lasted only until 1951, when the government was renegotiated, with the Socialist Party replacing the Democrats. Consistently the largest of the parties, with always more than 40 percent of the seats but never a majority, the Christian Socialists were usually in a position to choose their governing partners from the Socialists on the left and the Democrats more or less on the right. The Communists, the fourth party regularly represented in parliament, were completely unacceptable as partners.

Following the elections of 1959, the Christian Socialists continued to lead the government, but the Democrats replaced the Socialists in the governing coalition, which closed our time period. Thus, the Christian Socialists held the office of prime minister throughout, but it was held by different persons: first Pierre Dupong (until 1953), then Joseph Bech (to 1957), Pierre Frieden (1959), and Pierre Werner (through 1962). These changes in leader ship seem not to have affected the stability of party politics in Luxembourg, faithful to its tradition during our period of research.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Luxembourg continued to exhibit a basic pattern of stability after 1962, but there were some changes worth noting. All four of our original parties continued through 1978, and no new parties qualified for study.

Original Parties, Continuing

 271 Christian Social Union. The Christian Social Union traditionally has been the strongest party in Luxembourg, but it also has been declining in seats since 1958. Having participated in every Luxembourgian government, either alone or in coalition, since 1919, the party fell from the government for the first time following the 1974 elections.

272 Socialist Workers' Party. Traditionally the second strongest party, the LSAP suffered a split in 1971 that cost the party one-third of its seats. But the party recovered most of its loss in the 1974 election, which placed it in a governing coalition with the Democrats.

273 Democratic Party. Also called the Liberals, the party has been gaining strength in recent years and managed to displace the Christian Social Union from government in 1974.

274 Communist Party. Continually the smallest party in parliament, the Communists took a Stalinist posture toward most issues and even supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is not approached as a potential coalition partner.


In addition to the decline in the Christian Social Union, another notable development in Luxembourg is the appearance of the Social Democratic Party, which split from the Socialist Workers' Party in 1971. Opposed to cooperation with the Communists at the local level also, this party won 11 percent of the vote in the 1974 elections, but it has not existed long enough to qualify for study. If the Social Democrats continue as separate party, they will somewhat complicate the previously stable Luxembourgian party system.

[For party politics in Luxembourg since 1962, go to the essay by Noah C. Graubart]

1. Our study of party politics in Luxembourg is based on a file of 202 pages from 33 documents, most of which are in English, but 3 are in French and 3 in German (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Howard Matthews. Scott Hansen used the file to code the Luxembourgian parties on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Our outside consultant, Michel Delvaux, provided a great deal of new information for our coding.