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[Newsmaker] Juncker, Europe’s longest-serving PM

Luxembourg’s P.M. Jean-Claude Juncker
Luxembourg’s P.M. Jean-Claude Juncker
Luxembourg’s embattled prime minister would likely not appreciate the comparison, but Jean-Claude Juncker shares something in common with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a man derided in the West as “Europe’s last dictator.”

It might be unfair to describe the enduring Luxembourger as authoritarian, but now he certainly vies with the Belarusian strongman for Europe’s longest-lasting leader in power today.

Though the party of Luxembourg’s prime minister emerged somewhat diminished from the country’s general election on Sunday, with three fewer seats in parliament, he could still cobble together a coalition and retain power for an unprecedented 18th year.

The spry 58-year-old first took office in January 1995.

Alexander Lukashenko, one year Juncker’s senior, is the only other European leader demonstrating such political durability. He has been the president of Belarus since July 1994.

The United States and Europe assailed Lukashenko’s resistance to Western-backed “shock therapy” during the post-Soviet transition in the 1990s.

The 59-year-old chief executive has been derided for what is claimed an authoritarian style of government. Even now, the Belarusian head of state cannot shake that label with which the West saddled him: “Europe’s last dictator.”

Lukashenko’s defenders say the moniker is unfair, that his policies are the only alternative to instability, that he has navigated the ship of state from the poverty seen elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, and from the powerful networks of the Russian mafia.

Juncker called Sunday‘s poll after his junior partner pulled its support for his center-right Christian Democratic Party in July, amid claims he failed to stop illegal security agency activities.

The CSV will have 23 seats in the 60-seat parliament, down three from the last elections in 2009. The Socialist Workers Party, Juncker’s coalition partner since 2004, ever so slightly edged out the Democratic Party for second place, with both winning 13 seats. The CSV appeared to lose the most ground to the third-placed DP opposition, which gained four seats.

Junker shares one other thing in common with his East European counterpart. Like the Belarusian president, Junker can be credited with navigating Luxembourg through rough political waters during the euro crisis of the 90s. Maybe he can withstand the current test to his reign as well.

By Philip Iglauer (ephilip2011@heralcorp.com)
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