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.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
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 Patriotic Union (VU), renewed its governing coalition with the Progressive Citizens’ Party (FBP) following parliamentary elections.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
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 the right-wing populist Independents (DU) lost all five of their seats. The center-left Free List (FL) retained its three seats, and the newly established Democrats for Liechtenstein (DpL), a DU splinter group, entered the parliament with two seats.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
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.
|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?
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.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
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 more recently, DU and its offshoot DpL have also acted as opposition forces in the legislature.
|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?
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.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
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.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
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.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
Anticorruption laws are effectively implemented, and levels of corruption are reportedly low. However, a July 2022 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.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
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.
|Are there free and independent media?
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.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
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.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
Academic freedom is largely respected, with no significant restrictions by state or nonstate actors.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
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.
|Is there freedom of assembly?
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, and this right is respected in practice.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are able to function freely.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
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.
|Is there an independent judiciary?
The judiciary is generally independent and impartial, but the constitution gives the prince 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. A 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. While the Judicial Appointment Act was amended in March 2022 to stipulate that the president of a court should be consulted when a vacancy on the court is being filled, GRECO noted this provision does not counteract the problematic composition of the judicial selection board.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
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. Some concerns remain about particular aspects of police custody procedures, including the fact that police can deny the presence of a lawyer during initial questioning.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
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 4 women in short-term detention, those serving longer sentences are incarcerated in neighboring Austria.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
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 makes 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.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
There are no significant restrictions on freedom of movement in Liechtenstein.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
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.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
Personal social freedoms are largely protected, and important steps were taken in 2022 to bolster the rights of LGBT+ people. In November 2022, the parliament overwhelmingly adopted a motion to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, which is currently pending government approval. In December, parliament approved a government motion that provides full adoption rights for same-sex couples.
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 person 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. In 2015, the country lifted penalties for individuals obtaining an abortion in Liechtenstein or abroad, but not for physicians providing abortions in Liechtenstein.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
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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