City #5, September 2013. Stayed at a friend-of-a-friend’s, the subject of my city column. Best host one can have, showing me his town and introducing me to most of my Youropeans. Other people might find Luxemburg boring, but I like the calm, the sense that time has stood still or has at least moved at a slower pace than in other capitals. And it has one spectacular natural feature: a grand canyon 80 metres deep and about 200 metres wide dividing the lower lying medieval quarter – a down town in the literal sense – from the rest of the city. And the streets are paved with euros: I found 50-cent coins on the streets.  Luxembourg is rich…

Type of Youropeans? Very European: they all speak at least three languages, but most speak four or five; they are accustomed to and open to other nationalities.

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City Column

Marc Angel


‘Moien’ There goes Marc Angel again, clutching a pen, a red balloon or some other present in his left hand, while shaking hands with voters with his right. Parliamentary elections are due to take place on 20 October, and the LSAP is putting in an appearance at the Saturday market on the Place Guillaume: The Luxembourg socialists’ stand is squeezed in between a sausage seller and a flower stall.

‘Moien’ is ‘good day’ in Luxembourg dialect. Cheerfully and tirelessly, he chats with voters, explaining how his party will turn the country into a paradise, but he also listens to their complaints. He often hears them say that they can’t vote for him because only the 250,000 citizens of Luxembourg can do that; the 250,000 foreigners who live in the country are not allowed to vote.

This tiny country has an odd electoral system: voters do not necessarily choose a single candidate, but can spread their vote, positioning it like armies in a game of Risk. For example, you give four parts to a liberal candidate because you think it’s the best party, three to the Christian Democrat because you happen to know him or her (a distinct possibility in Luxembourg), and one to the extremely popular socialist – Marc – who has been a member of the city council for years. ‘I know a Finnish politician who is also a poet. She calls herself a poetician. I am a poli-tainer.’ He is also openly gay, as is his party leader, the current Minister of Economic Affairs, a friendly forty year old with a fashionably trimmed beard. As is the mayor of Luxembourg City. So much for Amsterdam’s claim to fame as the gay capital of Europe.

The market closes at two o’clock and the Minister of Economic Affairs dismantles the stand, puts the leftover pens back into the box, and distributes the balloons in bunches of ten to random children. Marc gets on his bicycle, which has an LSAP on its fender, and heads off to the next campaign event, greeting people left and right. ‘Moien!’

Postscript: Marc was re-elected by a wide margin on 20 October

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