Socialist Party Chairman Alex Bodry expects things to return to normal after, in his view, the “inexplicable” reaction of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV). Reiterating that the country needs a fresh start, with or without Jean-Claude Juncker, he does not exclude any coalition nor the option of joining the opposition ranks. Reporter Geneviève Montaigu interviewed Bodry for Luxembourg’s French-language daily Le Quotidien.
The Prime Minister never tires of repeating that you had condemned him even before he had the opportunity to defend himself on the report …
Alex Bodry: His arguments do not hold water. A few days before the last meeting of the committee of inquiry, the chairman of the parliamentary group Gilles Roth (CSV) said he could not see any misconduct on the part of Jean-Claude Juncker and that, as a result, there was no reason to draw political conclusions from this case. Even before the completion of the inquiry, it was the CSV, first and above all others, that made its own findings. They are in no position to talk about any premature action when other parties waited until the work was done to make their final views known. We must not forget that the Prime Minister was heard three times in the inquiry, he held press conferences at which he discussed various aspects of the subject. Personally, I was perfectly aware of his defense. Speaking before Parliament, he cited surprisingly a former Liberal politician, Henri Grethen, and to me this looks more like arm-waving in a play that a new argument. I was not surprised by any statement by the Prime Minister. He was implementing a communications strategy of the CSV. I have heard that the CSV has had professional and specialized crisis management coaching for some time to deal with this scandal. We keep hearing of a plot whose the sole objective is the destruction of the CSV. There was no secret conspiracy – claims to the contrary are just plain wrong! They are part of a well-developed scenario of the CSV, which is desperate to hold on to power.
However, during this historic session last Wednesday, the CSV’s reaction seemed to be one of surprise. We saw members meet in small cabals in the aisles of Parliament, as if they had just been sounded by your motion. Pure comedy?
This is inexplicable. They are good actors. It is obvious that, in this case, we were not in a coalition logic but the logic of a parliamentary inquiry, which is very different. We could not agree with our coalition partners on a text. Our views were irreconcilable. Gilles Roth and Jean-Claude Juncker know how I perceive responsibility and they do not share my views. At the cabinet meeting that preceded the session last Wednesday, it was clear to everyone that we would file a motion sensing a dissolution of Parliament. I have great difficulty understanding the surprise of CSV. All this seems to me carefully constructed, not spontaneous.
The coalition was already suffering from a lost love between partners since the failure of the tripartite. Can we say that the clash last Wednesday was inevitable?
We had differing views on economic and social issues. We clashed during that period but continued to move ahead with certain issues. Our view of this term in office is positive, with reforms undertaken mainly by Socialist members of the government. We struck agreements that I would call “balanced” on the sensitive issue of indexation of wages in a time of crisis; we initiated a school reform, a reform of abortion and marriage where we saw the CSV abandon its initial opposition on the issue of adoption. It seems that people are discovering that the CSV and LSAP are two different parties with different sensitivities. A coalition is a marriage of limited duration. LSAP fought a good battle and we are moderately satisfied with the end result, especially regarding the indexation of wages and the balanced budget.
So you are not intent on bringing down the CSV…
The Christian Socials are creating this impression. They present themselves as victims of a conspiracy, a conspiracy initiated by some vile little minds. This remains plain wrong. We are no longer in the domain of politics here but in a communications strategy. It’s very superficial. There will be no coalition agreement ahead of the election, at least as far as the LSAP is concerned. As always, we remain open to all possibilities and all depends on the positioning of the CSV in the coming weeks. It will take a few days before we again see a sense of normalcy in the reactions. One should not rush to judgments, because the CSV knows very well that its chances of getting an absolute majority remain slim. In any case, the CSV will need find a party that will be willing to work with it on a common agenda, in a serene atmosphere and with mutual respect. I think the situation will calm down after the initial reaction, which was well-planned.
Do you have a preference?
For now I have no preference. This is obvious. Everything will depend on the balance of power and this in turn will depend mostly on what we can find in common with a future partner. We could also imagine a different type of coalition, without the CSV.
Wouldn’t a three-way coalition risk to be too complicated?
Certainly, a three-way arrangement is always more complicated than a two-way (laughs). For us, the priority is to strengthen the Socialist Party, obviously. If we are weak, we have a limited influence after the elections. The debate last Wednesday in the Chamber of Deputies showed that the LSAP is the only party that can be an alternative to the CSV. We do not exclude any possibility, even joining the opposition ranks. LSAP is not a party that clings to ministerial chairs. If, after the elections, we are too weak or if we do not find enough common ground with others, we will be in opposition.
Isn’t finding a common ground with the Liberals a mission impossible given your disagreements on economic and social issues, areas in which reforms are already underway?
We have, it is true, many differences with the Liberal Party. The same goes for the Greens, but our differences there are less glaring. We can, again, deliberately decide to go into opposition. Obviously, a party can have more influence on the political orientations of a country if it is in government. My experience has taught me that the work of the opposition, however well-organized, can in the end only bring limited satisfaction.
Just looking at the enormous work undertaken by Mady Delvaux over the last four years in the field of school reform seems enough to say that some constellations are not possible. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree that some continuity will be necessary, not just in the field of education. We did a lot of work on reforming the Constitution and other societal issues, where we are halfway through the process, and this work must continue. The formation of the next government will be difficult because we are in a situation that is far from convenient. This idea of a new beginning that we launched is very important for the future of our country. There is always an idea of continuity in the Luxembourg system because we are not within a logic of alternation. There is always a ruling party that represent this continuity when a new government is formed. But that being said, the country needs a new impetus, a caesura. The business climate, rumors of “all rotten!” lead to a rejection of politics by part of the population, a loss of confidence in many institutions of the state and not just in the government and parliament, but also in the judiciary, the police … It was difficult for us to continue to work in such an atmosphere. Our call for early election was driven by very specific cases, but also by the oppressive atmosphere of scandals. Letting the electorate decide will calm things down and reset things.
Are you not, in a sense, frustrated for having been deprived of a vote on your motion?
I’m just disappointed by the attitude of Jean-Claude Juncker when it comes to the SREL case. He wanted to avoid saying that he fully assumed his responsibilities. There is no real excuse. There were partial explanations no doubt, but there is no excuse for a Prime Minister who has many more possibilities than an ordinary minister to organize himself, to find external expertise to ensure that this service works well and is controlled. He should have reacted thoughtfully and not in a cookie-cutter way as he did. This is the main criticism that I levy against him. This case can not be put to rest without anyone assuming responsibility. We must abandon the rule of generalized irresponsibility.
What will happen now, after the report of the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the SREL, since your motion was not passed?
Although the motion was not passed, we will definitely check if the recommendations contained in the report by the Chamber of Deputies will be followed up. We will closely monitor the taking of disciplinary action, which the report strongly recommends. The Minister of State must assume his responsibilities with a steady hand and not with a trembling one. This is absolutely necessary because this issue is likely to persist! We need very strong government action. The fact that we have early elections is not enough. There must be a concrete follow-up on the disciplinary, criminal and legislative level to regain the lost confidence of citizens in certain institutions. This is important.
Is a new start with Jean-Claude Juncker possible?
Nothing can be ruled out. There was a Luxembourg before Jean-Claude Juncker and there will be one after Jean-Claude Juncker. It’s time to give up this idea of a superhuman. I know him – he is very human with all his strengths and weaknesses. But I have a question too: can you name one great reform in Luxembourg over the last ten years that bears the signature of Jean-Claude Juncker? I challenge anyone to find one. Jean-Claude Juncker is a great communicator, he has represented the country in international fora, he is a highly decorated man, but if I look at national politics, did he not blatantly neglect it? What are his real priorities? Don’t get caught in this trap of the CSV. There is arrogance, recklessness and carelessness in the sphere of the CSV. The party feels omnipotent and flawless and above its feels that everything is allowed since there is never a penalty. The campaign should allow us to focus on these questions, starting with political responsibility. It’s not always the fault of others … How arrogant of the Christian Socials to pretend that they hold a monopoly of competence! This is a denial of reality altogether.
(Source: lequotidien.lu / translation by luxpol)