San Marino | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

San Marino

San Marino

Freedom in the World 2012

2012 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


In 2011, the government canceled a referendum on joining the European Union (EU) in spite of popular support for becoming an EU member state. In a move to improve economic transparency, a law mandating greater cooperation with foreign governments that request financial information was adopted in July. In September, the government voted to establish a commission to fight organized crime.

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 economic cooperation. Despite its dependence on Italy, from which it currently receives budget subsidies, San Marino maintains its own political institutions. Tourism and banking dominate the country’s economy.

In June 2008, the left-wing governing coalition—consisting of the Party of Socialists and Democrats (PSD), the Popular Alliance of Democrats (AP), the United Left (SU), and the new Democrats of the Center party (DdC)—collapsed when the AP withdrew its delegates. The move forced the Great and General Council, San Marino’s legislature, to call early elections for November. In that poll, the center-right Pact for San Marino coalition—composed of the San Marino Christian Democratic Party (PDCS), the AP, the Freedom List, and the Sammarinese Union of Moderates—won 54 percent of the vote and 35 of the 60 seats in the legislature, with 22 seats going to the PDCS.

In July 2011, San Marino furthered its efforts to shed its image as a financially corrupt country when the government voted in favor of a law that would require the republic to comply with foreign governments’ requests for financial and banking information. The law would allow San Marino to offer information unilaterally, in compliance with Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards.

In March, the government canceled a referendum on joining the European Union (EU), despite popular support for accession. In June, the government chose to push for stronger adherence to EU standards without becoming a full-fledged EU member or giving the people the opportunity to vote in a referendum.

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. As the joint heads of state, the captains regent are elected every six months by the Great and General Council 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; Antonella Mularoni was elected to the post in December 2008. Under changes made to the electoral law in 2008, the winning coalition must capture a majority of 50 percent plus 1 and at least 30 of the 60 parliamentary seats.

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, though financial corruption has led the government to continue exploring laws to provide greater financial transparency. In August 2010, San Marino became the 48th state to join the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). In June 2011, GRECO sent a team to evaluate San Marino and released a report on its findings in December in which it made a number of recommendations on how San Marino could develop more effective anticorruption programs. In September, the government voted to establish an antimafia commission to combat organized crime; its first official meeting was held in November.

Freedoms of speech and of the press are guaranteed. There are several daily private newspapers, 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.

Religious discrimination is prohibited by law. Roman Catholicism is the dominant, but not the state, religion. Academic freedom is respected.

Freedom of assembly is respected, and civic organizations are active. Workers are free to strike, organize trade unions, and bargain collectively, unless they 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 Great and General Council. Civilian authorities maintain effective control over the police and security forces, and the country’s prison system generally meets international standards.

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 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. Abortion is permitted only to save the life of the mother, though abortion laws in neighboring Italy are more liberal, and some women living in San Marino seek abortions there. Under a 2008 electoral law, no more than two-thirds of candidates from each party can be of the same gender. Nine women were elected to the Great and General Council in 2008, and two to the 10-member Congress of State.