San Marino | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

San Marino

San Marino

Freedom in the World 2009

2009 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


A weakened four-party coalition that formed in 2007 disbanded in June 2008 over internal disputes, forcing the legislature to call early elections on November 9 that led to victory for the Patto per San Marino coalition. A new electoral law was passed in May that included provisions to improve women’s representation in the legislature and avoid future governmental instability.

Founded in the year 301, according to tradition, San Marino is considered the world’s oldest existing republic and is one of the world’s smallest states. The papacy recognized San Marino’s independence in 1631, as did the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In 1862, Italy and San Marino signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Despite its dependence on Italy, from which it currently receives budget subsidies, San Marino maintains its own political institutions. It became a member of the Council of Europe in 1988 and a member of the United Nations in 1992. Tourism and banking dominate the country’s economy.

The European Union (EU) Savings Taxation Directive, which provided a way to tax revenue from savings accounts held by EU citizens in a member state other than their country of residence or in certain non-EU countries, took effect in July 2005. San Marino, which was not an EU member, had agreed to participate in the directive, which was intended to prevent harmful tax practices.

Elections for the Grand and General Council, San Marino’s parliament, were held in June 2006. The San Marino Christian Democratic Party (PDCS) won 21 of the 60 seats, followed by the Party of Socialists and Democrats (PSD) with 20, the Popular Alliance of Democrats (AP) with 7, the United Left (SU) with 5, the New Socialist Party (NPS) with 3, the Sammarinese for Freedom with 1, the National Alliance with 1, the Sammarinese People with 1 and We Sammarinese with 1. The PSD formed a coalition government with the AP and SU, replacing a government led by the PDCS.

In October 2007, after the government failed to pass the second article of a proposed due process law, the SU pulled its members from the leading coalition government in protest. The move threw the government into a crisis, but the coalition re-formed in late November with the addition of four lawmakers from the new Democrats of the Center party (DdC), which had split off from the PDCS. The ensuing left-wingleading government coalition was composed of the PSD, AP, SU and DdC.

In June 2008, the new leading coalition collapsed when the AP withdrew its delegates, denouncing the PSD. The PSD, SU, and DdC attempted to maintain a majority coalition, which subsequently fell apart when two members of the PSD left, leaving the coalition with minority representation. The move forced the Council to call early elections for November, which put the centre-right Patto per San Marino coalition—comprised of the PDCS, the AP, the Freedom List, and the Sammarinese Union of Moderates—in power with 54 percent of the vote and 35 parliamentary seats, compared to 46 percent and 25 seats for the center-left Riforme e Liberta coalition comprised of the PDS, the SU, and DdC.

A new electoral law was passed in August 2008 that made several changes to the old system. Under the new system, in an effort to avoid future governmental collapses, a majority of 50 percent plus 1 must be earned by the winning coalition, as well as at least 30 of the 60 parliamentary seats. Additionally, no more than two-thirds of candidates from each partycan be of the same gender in an attempt to promote women’s representation in government. New rules were also implemented to make it easier for Sammarinese living abroad to vote in elections.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

San Marino is an electoral democracy. The 60 members of the Great and General Council, the unicameral legislature, are elected every five years by proportional representation. Executive power rests with the 10-member Congress of State (cabinet), which is headed by two captains-regent selected every spring and fall by the Great and General Council from among its own members to serve as joint heads of state for a six-month period. Although there is no official prime minister, the secretary of state for foreign and political affairs is regarded as the head of government. Fiorenzo Stolfi was elected to the post in July 2006.

The PDCS, the PSD, and the AP are the three dominant political groups in the country. There are several smaller groups, however, and majority governments are usually formed by a coalition of parties.

There are few problems with government corruption in the country. San Marino was not ranked in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Freedoms of speech and the press are guaranteed. There are threedaily private newspapers and one weekly paper, a state-run broadcast system for radio and television called RTV, and a private FM station, Radio Titiano. The Sammarinese have access to all Italian print media and certain Italian broadcast stations. Access to the internet is unrestricted.

The country prohibits religious discrimination by law. Roman Catholicism is the dominant, but not the state, religion. Citizens can voluntarily donate 0.3 percent of their income through their taxes to the Catholic Church or other groups, such as the Waldesian Church—the world’s oldest Protestant church—or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Academic freedom is respected in the country.

Residents are free to assemble, demonstrate, and conduct open public discussions. Civic organizations are active. Workers are free to organize into trade unions and bargain collectively with employers. They are also free to strike, if they do not work in military occupations. Approximately half of the country’s workforce is unionized.

The judiciary is independent. Lower court judges are required to be noncitizens—generally Italians—to assure impartiality. The final court of review is the Council of Twelve, a group of judges chosen for six-year terms from among the members of the Grand and General Council. The country’s prison system generally meets international standards, and civilian authorities maintain effective control over the police and security forces.

The population is generally treated equally under the law, although the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has raised some concerns in the past about the status of foreigners in the country. San Marino has no formal asylum policy, and a foreigner must live in the country for 30 years to be eligible for citizenship. The European Convention on Nationality recommends that such residence requirements should not exceed 10 years.

Women are given legal protections from violence and spousal abuse, and gender equality exists in the workplace and elsewhere. There are, however, slight differences in the way men and women can transmit citizenship to their children. The country has restrictive laws regarding abortion, which is permitted only to save the life of the mother. In the new 2008 electoral law, a provision was written that no more than two-thirds of the candidates from each party can be of the same gender in an attempt to promote women’s participation in government.