After a series of reforms to Luxembourg’s electoral system, the introduction of universal suffrage in 1919 marks a turning point in the political life of the Grand Duchy.

Une urne électorale en bois
L'urne électorale, symbole des élections

From 1841 to 1848: majority system with indirect census vote

Before 1848, elections with indirect census suffrage re-elected half of the parliamentary assembly every three years. The electoral system in place at the time is a majority system with a two-stage census vote: around 3 % of the population votes in the first stage and about thirty dignitaries per district in the second stage. The direct election of a deputy requires the votes of at least half of the voters plus one. If this system does not enable the election of all the deputies, there is a second round, in which a relative majority is sufficient. The term of office is six years. The Assembly is mainly made up of large landowners.

1848: the introduction of direct census vote

The constituent assembly of 1848 is elected via two-stage census suffrage. Despite the revolutionary atmosphere, it ignores the demands for universal suffrage made by Catholics and radicals. It introduces direct census suffrage. The introduction of a reduced poll tax makes it possible to broaden the electorate to the middle classes. However, the electorate includes less than a quarter of the male population of voting age (age 25 and over). In 1848, the electoral act provides for one deputy for 3,500 inhabitants. This means that 51 deputies sit in the Chamber. After a brief reintroduction of the indirect census vote in 1856, direct suffrage is permanently adopted in 1860. As the poll tax is high again, the electorate is now at its lowest level. From 1857 to 1868, the number of deputies is set at 31 and is not dependent on the number of inhabitants.

From 1868 to 1919: successive reduction of the poll tax

In 1868, the electoral act sets the number of deputies at one for every 5,000 inhabitants. This means that the Chamber of 1868 is made up of 40 deputies. Following an increase in the population – particularly in the south of the country –, the number of deputies rises to 53 in 1916. Successive decreases in the poll tax lead to an increase in the electorate. Before the First World War, almost two thirds of the male population aged 25 and over have the right to vote.

1919: Introduction of universal suffrage

The Constitution review of 1919 introduces universal suffrage: the right to vote is no longer subject to a poll tax and is also given to women. The voting age is lowered to 21. Representation is no longer by majority, but proportional, with a list system. The term of office is six years, and every three years, half of the Chamber is re-elected – alternately in the South and East and the Centre and North. It comprises one deputy for 5,500 inhabitants and this rule of representation in parallel to population growth would apply until 1984.

From 1919 to date: adaptations of the electoral system to new realities

In 1956, a review of the Constitution decides on the entire re-election of the Chamber every five years. The constitutional review of 1988 sets the number of deputies at 60. In 1972, the voting age is lowered to the age of 18. The passive right to vote remains at 21. In 2003, the passive right to vote is also reduced to the age of 18. Voting becomes obligatory until the age of 75.