PR Political Rights 33 40
CL Civil Liberties 57 60
Last Year's Score & Status
90 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

The Principality of Liechtenstein combines a powerful monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The prince has an influential political role, which was enhanced by a constitutional referendum in 2003. Human rights and civil liberties are generally respected in the country.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • Parliamentary elections in February resulted in gains for Liechtenstein’s two governing parties, the Patriotic Union (VU) and the Progressive Citizens’ Party (FBP). In the closest election ever held in the country, the center-right VU beat the conservative FBP by only about 40 votes. The right-wing populist Independents (DU) lost all five of their seats, while a new right-wing party, Democrats for Liechtenstein (DpL), entered the parliament with two seats. After the elections, the VU and FBP once again formed a coalition government, with VU leader Daniel Risch replacing the FBP’s Adrian Hasler as prime minister.
  • In June, the Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s ban on the adoption of children by same-sex couples was illegal. The ruling followed controversial remarks by the prince, who in February threatened a veto of any legislation that would allow the practice. The parliament had yet to act on the court’s decision at year’s end.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 2.002 4.004

Liechtenstein has one of the most politically powerful hereditary monarchies in Europe. In a 2003 constitutional referendum, voters granted significantly more power to the prince. As head of state, the prince appoints the prime minister and cabinet on the recommendation of the parliament and has the authority to dismiss the government and dissolve the parliament.

Prince Hans-Adam II is the current head of state, but he delegated his governmental authority to his son, Hereditary Prince Alois, in 2004. Daniel Risch took office as prime minister in March 2021 after his party, the VU, renewed its governing coalition with the FBP following parliamentary elections. He replaced Adrian Hasler of the FBP.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The Landtag, the unicameral parliament, consists of 25 deputies chosen by proportional representation every four years. International observers considered the 2021 parliamentary elections to be credible. The two ruling parties, the VU and FBP, increased their share of votes and both won 10 seats, while DU lost all of their five seats. The center-left Free List (FL) retained its three seats, and the newly established DpL, a DU splinter group, entered the parliament with two seats.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

The electoral framework provides a sound basis for democratic balloting. There are no formal provisions for election observation, but domestic and international observers are free to monitor the process. While voting is compulsory under the law, the rule is not enforced.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

There are no onerous limits on the establishment or activities of political parties. The 8 percent vote threshold for representation in the parliament is comparatively high, though the 2013 elections marked the first time that four parties had won seats, and subsequent elections have also yielded representation for four parties. In 2019, an administrative court ruled that the new DpL should be recognized by the government as a political party, which entitled it to public financing. The party, which went on to capture two seats in the 2021 elections, was founded by three lawmakers who left DU.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 3.003 4.004

The unelected prince wields significant governmental authority, meaning the extent to which power can change hands through elections is limited. The FBP and VU have traditionally dominated the parliament, competing with each other and usually forming coalition governments. The FL has long served as an opposition party, and since 2013 DU and DpL have also acted as opposition forces in the legislature.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3.003 4.004

Although citizens’ political choices are largely free from undue interference, the prince has the power to veto the outcome of national referendums and popular initiatives. He has occasionally threatened to use this power, thereby influencing the results. In a 2012 constitutional referendum, however, 76 percent of voters rejected a proposal to limit the prince’s veto power.

Transparency of political financing remains a concern. In response to calls for reform by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the parliament in 2019 passed a modification of the law on party financing, stipulating that parties may no longer accept anonymous donations exceeding 300 Swiss francs ($325). However, the law did not require parties to publicly disclose their known donors, and campaign financing remains largely unregulated.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

Approximately one-third of the population consists of foreign nationals—mostly from neighboring countries—who do not have political rights in the principality. Under Liechtenstein’s restrictive naturalization criteria, one must live in the country for 30 years, or marry a resident Liechtenstein citizen and live in the country for more than 10 years, to qualify for citizenship.

Women and members of ethnic minority groups generally enjoy formal political equality, though some disparities persist in practice. As part of a 2020 referendum, voters rejected a proposed change to the constitution that would have required the promotion of equal representation for women in politics. However, following the 2021 elections, the number of women in the parliament increased from three to seven.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2.002 4.004

Although elected executive and legislative officials set the policy agenda, the prince has significant governmental authority with no electoral mandate. He can dismiss the government and the parliament and veto both legislation and the outcome of public plebiscites.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 4.004 4.004

Anticorruption laws are effectively implemented, and levels of corruption are reportedly low. However, a 2020 GRECO compliance report observed that Liechtenstein still lacked a code of conduct for members of parliament, who are not currently required to declare assets or conflicts of interest.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 4.004 4.004

Although there is no constitutional guarantee of access to information, laws are in place to provide for government transparency, and these are largely respected in practice.

The government has made efforts in recent years to increase transparency in the banking sector, which has historically been criticized for enabling foreign clients to hide wealth from their respective governments and potentially aiding corruption or other criminal activity. A 2019 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes concluded that Liechtenstein is largely compliant with international standards regarding beneficiary ownership, accounting, and banking.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 4.004 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, which is respected in practice. Liechtenstein has one private television station, one public radio station, and two main newspapers that are owned by the two major political parties. The local media sector lacks pluralism, but residents have access to foreign news outlets, including broadcasts from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Although the constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion, religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed and protected in practice. Catholic or Protestant education is mandatory in all primary schools, but exemptions are routinely granted. Islamic religious classes have been offered in some primary schools since 2008. All religious groups have tax-exempt status. Muslim groups have yet to obtain permission to establish a mosque or a dedicated Muslim cemetery; there is one Islamic prayer room, and churches open their facilities for use by other faiths upon request. In August 2021, the Islamic community submitted a petition to the parliament that called for equal rights and additional facilities; the parliament welcomed the document and referred it to the government.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is largely respected, with no significant restrictions by state or nonstate actors.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

The law guarantees freedom of expression, but prohibits public insults directed against a race or ethnic group. The government is not known to improperly monitor private communications.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, and this right is respected in practice.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations are able to function freely.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

The law facilitates the formation of trade unions and collective bargaining, and workers enjoy freedom of association in practice. The principality has at least one trade union. While a 2008 legal change removed a ban on strikes for civil servants, the right to strike in general is not explicitly protected by law. Major labor disputes are rare in the country.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3.003 4.004

The judiciary is generally independent and impartial, but the constitution gives the prince a powerful influence over the appointment of judges, meaning the process lacks a key element of democratic accountability. The selection board for judicial candidates is chaired by the prince or his deputy, whose assent is required for candidate recommendations; the rest of the board consists of the prince’s appointees and representatives of the government and parliamentary parties. The recommended candidates are submitted for approval by the parliament and appointment by the prince. The 2020 GRECO report called for the selection board to include judges chosen by their peers, and for the appointment procedure to feature specific integrity criteria that candidates must meet.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4.004 4.004

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and the rights of defendants are usually respected. Most trials are public, and defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty. In a 2017 report, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture expressed concerns about some aspects of police custody procedures, including the fact that police can deny the presence of a lawyer during initial questioning.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 4.004 4.004

People in Liechtenstein are largely free from the illegitimate use of physical force. Violent crime is extremely rare. While the country’s small prison facility can hold up to 16 men and four women in short-term detention, those serving longer sentences are incarcerated in neighboring Austria.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

The legal framework prohibits discrimination on various grounds, though some shortcomings remain. In 2018, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reiterated the need for Liechtenstein to ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides a general prohibition against discrimination.

Despite the presence of antidiscrimination laws, women, particularly Muslim women, and LGBT+ people experience employment discrimination. Women continue to earn significantly less on average than their male counterparts. LGBT+ individuals face social stigma, and according to a leading human rights group, they often do not disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity out of fear of bias.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

There are no significant restrictions on freedom of movement in Liechtenstein. The social-distancing rules that have been imposed for certain periods since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 are generally seen as a legitimate response to the public health threat.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 4.004 4.004

The legal framework generally protects property rights and supports private business activity without undue restrictions. Nonresidents are not allowed to establish a business in Liechtenstein, but prospective business owners exploit loopholes to work around the law.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

Personal social freedoms are largely protected. Same-sex registered partnerships are legal, and single LGBT+ people can adopt children, but same-sex couples cannot. In February 2021 the prince threatened a veto of any legislative move to allow adoption by same-sex couples, but the Constitutional Court ruled in June that the ban was illegal; at year’s end the parliament had yet to act on the court’s ruling.

Domestic violence and rape, including spousal rape, are illegal in Liechtenstein, and authorities effectively prosecute offenders and protect victims. Abortion is criminalized unless the pregnant individual is at risk of death or serious harm, or was under age 14 at the time of conception. A 2011 referendum proposal to expand the conditions for legal abortion was defeated by voters.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 4.004 4.004

Liechtenstein is largely free from economic exploitation and human trafficking. Despite the country’s overall wealth and low unemployment rates, however, relative poverty persists among some communities. Immigrants in particular often struggle to achieve economic security and social mobility.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    90 100 free