San Marino

PR Political Rights 39 40
CL Civil Liberties 58 60
Last Year's Score & Status
93 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

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. Women are underrepresented in politics.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In March, an appellate court issued rulings in the so-called Conto Mazzini case, involving a group of high-ranking Sammarinese officials who in 2017 were convicted of bribery, corruption, money laundering, and vote buying. In almost every judgment, the appellate court significantly reduced the defendants’ initial sentences.
  • Also that month, the parliament and the Judicial Council adopted codes of conduct for lawmakers and judges, respectively. The reforms were recognized as an important step forward by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
  • In September, the parliament adopted a law that legalized abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and when the pregnant woman’s life or health is at risk. The legislation implemented the results of a 2021 referendum in which more than 75 percent of Sammarinese voters endorsed the change.

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? 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 legislative elections in late 2019, Luca Beccari of the Sammarinese Christian Democratic Party (PDCS) was elected to the post in early 2020.

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 60 members of the unicameral Great and General Council are elected for five-year terms. The 2019 elections were considered credible and free, and the results were accepted by stakeholders and the public. The PDCS, then in opposition, won with 21 seats. The left-wing Tomorrow in Motion (DML) coalition placed second with 15 seats, followed by Libera San Marino (LSM) with 10 seats, We for the Republic (NplR) with 8 seats, and Future Republic (RF) with 6 seats. After the elections, the PDCS formed a governing coalition with DML and NplR.

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 laws provide a sound basis for the organization of free and fair elections. In a compliance report published in 2021, GRECO indicated that San Marino had enacted adequate legislation to regulate the financing of political parties.

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

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.

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? 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. Multiple opposition groups are currently represented in the Great and General Council.

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? 4.004 4.004

The political choices of voters and candidates are free from undue pressure by unaccountable groups.

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

While citizens generally enjoy full political rights, women are underrepresented in the Great and General Council, where they held 19 of 60 seats after 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.

LGBT+ citizens have advanced their interests in the political sphere in recent years, and in April 2022 Paolo Rondelli was elected as one of the two captains regent, becoming the world’s first openly gay head of state.

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.

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? 4.004 4.004

The government and legislature exercise their powers without improper interference from unelected entities.

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

In response to scandals involving high-ranking officials, San Marino has launched a series of programs to combat corruption and money laundering. However, 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. In response, in March 2022 the parliament adopted legislation that introduced a code of conduct for lawmakers, with provisions designed to better manage conflicts of interest and improve transparency through asset declarations. Also that month, the Judicial Council adopted a code of ethics for judges. GRECO officials expressed their approval of these reforms in June.

In 2017, several former officials were convicted of bribery, corruption, money laundering, and vote buying as part of their involvement in the so-called Conto Mazzini case. Multiple former captains regent and ministers received prison sentences ranging from two to eight years. In March 2022, after years of hearings, an appellate court upheld most of the convictions but reduced nearly all of the penalties.

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the parliament and Judicial Council adopted codes of conduct for public officials that included asset-declaration rules and protections against conflicts of interest.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 rules are generally respected in practice. The codes of conduct for public officials that were adopted in 2022 were expected to provide additional transparency.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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.

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

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.

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 generally respected.

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

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.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

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

Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice. Demonstrations routinely proceed without incident.

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

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) may operate without undue restrictions, and a number of human rights groups are active in the country.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 of recourse for workers who are penalized for union activity.

F Rule of Law

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

Judicial affairs are managed by a Judicial Council made up of judges and lay members. In 2020, the government adopted legislation that altered the voting structure within the Judicial Council, giving greater influence to members of parliament sitting on the council. The body subsequently removed three judges who had been investigating the Conto Mazzini case.

In response, GRECO called for structural changes to limit political interference with the judiciary. The parliament adopted reforms in December 2021 that were designed to strengthen judicial independence, including provisions that prohibited lawmakers from serving on the Judicial Council, required the council’s lay members to have specific legal education or experience, and called for those members to be elected by a two-thirds majority in the parliament; the judges on the council are elected by their peers. In June 2022, GRECO expressed its satisfaction with these reforms as well as the judicial code of ethics that was adopted by the reorganized Judicial Council in March.

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 due to recent reforms that strengthened the judiciary’s independence, in part by preventing elected lawmakers from serving on the Judicial Council.

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

Due process rights surrounding charges and trials are generally upheld in practice. The authorities respect legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. The 2020 GRECO report on San Marino’s judiciary expressed concerns about the lack of professionalism and transparency in the system, and called for a more consistent, objective, and transparent allocation of cases. In March 2022, the parliament passed amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and other legislation that provided for an objective and systematic allocation of cases, strengthened the protection of defendants’ rights, and set rules for the recusal of judges who have conflicts of interest.

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the parliament amended the criminal procedure code to bolster safeguards for the due process rights of defendants.

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

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.

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

San Marino 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, and the country lacks a strong and comprehensive legal framework for combating discrimination more broadly. A 2019 constitutional amendment banned all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it does not cover gender identity, and it is not supported by specific, enforceable laws addressing employment and other forms of discrimination affecting LGBT+ people. Women continue to face societal prejudices that limit their access to employment and economic opportunity.

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 restrictions on freedom of movement, and individuals in San Marino may freely change their place of residence, employment, and education.

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 rights to own property and operate private businesses are upheld.

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? 4.004 4.004

Personal social freedoms are generally safeguarded in San Marino. A law adopted in 2018 allows civil unions for same-sex couples. However, same-sex marriage is not recognized, and same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt children together. Reports of domestic violence, which is prohibited by law, are rare.

In a 2021 referendum, more than 75 percent of participants voted in favor of legalizing abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy or if a pregnancy poses a danger to the woman’s life or health. The parliament passed legislation implementing these results in September 2022. Abortion had previously been a criminal offense unless it was necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the parliament adopted legislation to implement a 2021 referendum in which voters approved the legalization of abortion.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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 and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance have called on San Marino to improve its efforts to prevent abusive or exploitative conditions for foreign women employed as caregivers or household workers.

On San Marino

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  • Global Freedom Score

    97 100 free