The Progressive Post

🇱🇺 A heart for Europe and Europe in his heart: Angel works wonders


policy, speechwriting and grant consultant focusing on peacebuilding, gender and youth dynamics in conflict and post-conflict settings
Elisha Winckel, climate justice activist, content creator and former vice-president of the Young European Socialists (YES)

Who is the S&D candidate Luxembourg is sending back to Brussels? “The man who was too nice to be successful in Luxembourg”, as the daily Luxemburger Wort once labelled LSAP’s lead candidate Marc Angel, describing his rapid rise at the European level following 30 years in Luxembourgish politics. What may be misunderstood as belittling his character and career ultimately became a defining factor for his team’s and party’s success. These elections showed how his personal brand of focusing on constructive collaboration and avoiding negative campaigning resonated with voters in the face of far-right gloom.

With a campaign tailored to a man with a heart for Europe and Europe in his heart (#EuropaHäerz), an all-star team, and his kindness and keen interest in the people he meets, Marc Angel has led the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP) to its highest result in a European election in 20 years, gaining almost 10 per cent in vote share. Whilst this result came on the back of a team of former ministers (one was also speaker of parliament), as well as three young candidates with prior national-election experience and the unofficial seventh candidate, spitzenkandidat Nicolas Schmit, his personal result must be highlighted as well. Angel finished third in national polls, having gained 144 per cent votes in his last elections.

Luxembourgish elections tend to be more European in character, with most parties simply alternating various pro-EU priorities depending on their colours. Climate change mattered but was often reduced to the importance of conserving nature and technological fixes in terms that did not capture voters’ priorities on inflation and cost of living, the war in Ukraine, and other related issues. The question of countries’ veto rights, especially in tax questions also occasionally reared its head. Somewhat surprisingly, migration and asylum featured less prominently than expected in the country, which per-capita boosts the highest numbers of refugees and whose share of foreign nationals trumps that of nationals between 8am and 6pm during the working week. Although it made a brief appearance, questions of genocide in Gaza and recognition of Palestine as a state only briefly and belatedly entered and left the political discourse despite continued activism and viral clips online. 

Luxembourg’s model is somewhat unique: as voting is mandatory, turnout has historically not benefitted far-right parties’ vote share as it did elsewhere. However, the 2024 elections marked a significant shift to this national artefact. For the first time, there was a 25 per cent abstention and a spoiled ballot rate, indicating growing disenchantment and disengagement among voters. This unprecedented level of abstentionism became a political block that skewed the final results. Moreover, the seemingly minute 1.3 per cent rise of the far-right masks a more alarming trend: their lead candidate reaped a staggering 98 per cent rise in personal votes. A former diplomat and MP, Angel faced a far-right leader whose brand of dog-whistle politics, pro-Russia disinformation talking points, and an informed-sounding understanding of EU policy gave them an air of respectability and representing the only clear-cut alternative to established parties.

It would be an oversimplification to reduce the far-right’s win to a protest vote. A more pressing question arising is who can articulate voters’ disenchantment and fears and provide them with solutions to support. Following a cycle of back-to-back municipal, national and European elections, in-person events seemed ever-more reduced to bringing together party members whilst the ‘average’ voter appeared absent or remained underrepresented. All parties, to varying degrees and success, complemented their offline campaign with traditional and digital media ad campaigns.

As 9 June approached, videos became more frequent, captions became a norm for most, and a more direct campaigning style developed. And yet, whilst Jordan Bardella’s TikTok dominance in France was seen as a defining factor in his rise, the LSAP and other traditional parties are still only beginning to understand Luxembourg’s social-media landscape as a political battleground, something that has benefitted the far-right who reigned for years uncontested on TikTok amongst the youth whilst having a chokehold on older generations on Facebook. Social media cannot be identified as defining electoral outcomes yet in Luxembourg, but established parties’ continued underestimation of the influence of social media across generations and the knock-on effects of not capturing soon-to-be and young voters in their campaigns means votes are being left on the table.

What was more relevant to Angel’s electoral success was his persistent performance in national debates and interviews. Angel demonstrated the necessary oratory skills and technical understanding to counter conservative and far-right attacks whilst sticking to the message and relating to voters. More than jostling over details, Angel was able to repeatedly disarm opponents and point questioning by presenting concrete solutions without oversimplifying, pointing at the S&D’s and his personal track record, and reframing critique of political compromise as missing how the EU machinery works, something the far-right struggled to follow-up time and again. The oft-repeated adage that there is no simple solutions to complex problems is insufficient to counter the far-right: it is about upstaging them with expertise and some wit, packaged in an accessible form to non-Politico readers. Angel and his team showed how.

In the end, Angel’s leveraging of his track record, a diversified list, and his continued example that politics does not have to be combative to capture voters’ support worked. More than a bland and generic slogan, Angel turned #EuropaHäerz into a tangible vision offering concrete answers to pressing issues that voters could relate to. And while his re-election means Angel can run again to become VP of the European Parliament, the strong performance of the LSAP strengthens Nicolas Schmit’s claim to continue serving as European Commissioner.

Photo credits: Shutterstock/LCV

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