San Marino is a parliamentary democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are generally upheld. Corruption is a problem, and while investigative journalists are active, the risk of heavy fines for defamation can encourage self-censorship. The country’s judicial system is not sufficiently independent and professional. Women are underrepresented in politics.
- The San Marino government responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with school closings, bans on public and private gatherings, and movement restrictions in March. However, as the year went on, the government eased restrictions despite outbreaks in the country and in the surrounding regions in Italy. By year’s end, over 2,300 people had tested positive for the virus, 59 people died, according to government statistics provided to the World Health Organization (WHO).
- In February, the new government adopted legislation that changed voting rights in the Judicial Council, making the votes of judges and non-judges equal and thereby increasing the influence of political parties. Subsequently, in July, the Judicial Council reinstated the country’s former head magistrate and removed the three judges (Buriani, Volpinari, and Di Bona) who had been investigating the so-called Conto Mazzini case, in which 17 high-ranking Sammarinese officials—including 8 former government ministers—were sentenced in 2017 for their involvement in money laundering and other corrupt activities.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Executive power rests with the 10-member State Congress (cabinet), which is accountable to the parliament and is headed by two captains regent. As the joint heads of state with largely ceremonial roles, the captains are elected every six months by the legislature from among its own members. Although there is no official prime minister, the secretary of state for foreign and political affairs is regarded as the head of government. Following the December 2019 elections, Luca Beccari of the Sammarinese Christian Democratic Party was elected to the post in January 2020.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The 60 members of the unicameral Great and General Council are elected for five-year terms. The 2019 elections, called about a year early, were considered credible and free, and their results were accepted by stakeholders and the public. The elections were won by the opposition Sammarinese Christian Democratic Party, which obtained 21 seats. The left-wing Tomorrow in Motion coalition came in second with 15 seats, followed by Libera with 10 seats, We for the Republic with 8 seats, and Future Republic with 6 seats. After the elections, the Christian Democrats formed a governing coalition with Tomorrow in Motion and We for the Republic.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The electoral laws provide a sound basis for the organization of free and fair elections. In its 2018 compliance report, published in 2019, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) indicated that San Marino had enacted adequate legislation to regulate the financing of political parties.
|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|
Parties are free to form and operate in San Marino, and a great number of them contest elections. Many parties participate in larger electoral coalitions, as the electoral law gives the largest political grouping the right to take the initiative in government formation.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
There are no restrictions preventing the opposition from increasing support through elections, and the country has undergone transfers of power between rival party groupings in recent years. In the 2019 elections, opposition parties defeated the incumbent government and formed a new government. Multiple opposition groups are currently represented in the Great and General Council.
|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?||4.004 4.004|
The political choices of voters and candidates are free from undue pressure by unaccountable groups.
|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|
While citizens generally enjoy full political rights, women are underrepresented in the Great and General Council, where they held 19 seats following the 2019 elections, and in politics generally. An assessment mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that was deployed ahead of the 2019 polls noted that gender quotas on candidate lists were undercut by the preferential voting system. Women are better represented in the country’s Electoral Council and in polling administration.
About 16 percent of the population consists of noncitizens who do not have political rights in the country; most are Italian nationals. Under San Marino’s strict naturalization criteria, individuals without a citizen spouse, parent, or grandparent generally must live in the country for over 30 years to be eligible for citizenship.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
The government and legislature exercise their powers without improper interference from unelected entities.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
In response to scandals involving high-ranking officials, San Marino has launched a series of programs to combat corruption and money laundering. In its 2018 report, GRECO found that progress had been made in closing key gaps in the legal framework, but that further improvements were required. GRECO’s 2020 report called for structural changes to San Marino’s judicial sector in order to prevent unwarranted political influence and to strengthen the country’s anticorruption framework. The report also highlighted the need to adopt a code of conduct for members of Parliament, which would require them to declare conflicts of interest and declare assets.
In 2017, several former officials were convicted for their involvement in bribery, corruption, money laundering, and vote buying in the so-called Conto Mazzini case. Multiple former captains regent and ministers received prison sentences ranging from two to eight years. In October 2020, a court held the third hearing on appeal in the case, which was suspended after one of the suspects filed a petition for the recusal of a judge.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||4.004 4.004|
Laws providing for the accessibility of government information are in place, and the government generally respects those laws. Public officials are not required to disclose their assets, though political candidates must report their income from the previous year as well as assets or investments.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
Freedom of the press is generally upheld. Local media are pluralistic, and journalists investigate important topics, including financial crimes. However, the risk of heavy fines or civil damages under San Marino’s strict defamation laws can prompt self-censorship among journalists. News consumers also have access to Italian media, and internet access is not restricted.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
Religious freedom is broadly upheld in San Marino. Religious discrimination is prohibited by law. There is no state religion, although Roman Catholicism is dominant. Catholic religious instruction is offered in schools but is not mandatory.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally respected.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of expression is legally safeguarded, and people are generally free to discuss their views on politics and other sensitive topics, though the law prohibits hate speech based on various characteristics.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice. Demonstrations routinely proceed without incident.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Nongovernmental organizations may operate without undue restrictions, and a number of human rights groups are active in the country.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||4.004 4.004|
Workers are free to strike, organize in trade unions, and bargain collectively, unless they work in military occupations. Approximately half of the workforce is unionized. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides avenues for recourse for workers penalized for union activity.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||3.003 4.004|
Judicial affairs are managed by a Judicial Council made up of first instance and appellate judges as well as members of Parliament. In 2020 various controversies relating to political interference in the judiciary unfolded. In February 2020, San Marino’s new government adopted legislation that changed voting rights in the Judicial Council, making the votes of judges and non-judges equal, and thereby increasing the influence of political parties. Subsequently, in July, the Judicial Council reinstated the country’s former head magistrate and removed the three judges (Buriani, Volpinari, and Di Bona) who had been investigating the so-called Conto Mazzini case, in which 17 high-ranking Sammarinese officials—including 8 former government ministers—were sentenced in 2017 for their involvement in money laundering and other corrupt activities.
In response, a September 2020 report from the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) called for structural changes to San Marino’s judiciary in order to limit political influence. The report also called for greater transparency and accountability in the country’s judicial sector, and for changes in the configuration of the Judicial Council and the appointment of judges. The report was accompanied by a letter from the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights imploring the Sammarinese government to safeguard the independence of the judiciary. The Sammarinese government responded that the recent changes to San Marino’s judicial system were necessary to remedy nonimpartial and unconstitutional decisions made by some of the country’s judges.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 due to a restructuring of the judicial council that increased the representation of political figures as opposed to judges.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||3.003 4.004|
Due process rights surrounding charges and trials are generally upheld in practice. The authorities respect legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. However, the 2020 GRECO report on San Marino’s judiciary expressed concerns about the lack of professionalism and transparency in San Marino’s judicial system, and called for a more consistent, objective, and transparent allocation of cases. In addition, the report expressed a need to increase the accessibility to the public on judicial activity. The government’s removal and reassignment of the three judges presiding over the Conto Mazzini case raised questions as to the maintenance of due process in cases of corruption.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the reorganization of the judicial council enabled the politicized reassignment of magistrates overseeing the high-profile Conto Mazzini corruption case.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||4.004 4.004|
The population does not face any major threats to physical security. There is one prison in San Marino, and the inmate population is small, with no reports of serious mistreatment. Law enforcement officers generally operate with professionalism.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
The law criminalizes the dissemination of ideas related to racial or ethnic superiority; acts of violence or discrimination on various grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity; and incitement to such acts. However, discrimination based on skin color and language are not covered by these provisions. While San Marino lacks legislation guaranteeing equality and freedom from employment or other discrimination for LGBT+ people, referendum voters in June 2019 approved a constitutional amendment banning all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A 2018 report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reiterated concerns about the absence of a strong and comprehensive antidiscrimination framework in the country. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also urged San Marino to strengthen its laws against discrimination, in particular gender discrimination. Women face societal prejudices that affect their access to employment and economic opportunity.
|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 restrictions on freedom of movement, and individuals in San Marino may freely change their place of residence, employment, and education.
|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 rights to own property and operate private businesses are upheld.
|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 generally safeguarded in San Marino. A law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples was adopted by the Great and General Council in November 2018 and came into force in February 2019. However, same-sex marriage is not recognized, and same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt children together. Abortion is a criminal offense unless the woman’s life is in danger, and reform advocates have met with fierce resistance from conservative Catholic groups in recent years. Reports of domestic violence, which is prohibited by law, are rare.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||4.004 4.004|
The government generally upholds labor protections for workers and provides assistance to low-income individuals. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights in 2015 called on San Marino to continue with efforts to better protect foreign women employed as caregivers or household workers, and ECRI renewed this advice in 2018.
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Global Freedom Score93 100 free