Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Parliamentary elections in February 2013 saw a surge by a new grouping of independent candidates, in what was seen as a protest vote against austerity policies. The Progressive Citizens’ Party (FBP) won the most seats and Adrian Hasler became prime minister.
In July, Liechtenstein’s oldest bank agreed to a settlement with U.S. prosecutors to avoid criminal charges for facilitating tax evasion by U.S. clients. As part of the deal, Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG gave U.S. authorities information on more than 200 undeclared accounts.
Political Rights: 39 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12
Liechtenstein has the most politically powerful unelected monarch in Europe. The prince, as the hereditary head of state, appoints the prime minister on the recommendation of Parliament and possesses the power to veto legislation and dismiss the government. In a 2003 referendum, voters approved a constitutional amendment granting significantly more power to the monarch. The unicameral Parliament (Landtag) consists of 25 deputies chosen by proportional representation every four years. Voting is compulsory.
In 2004, Prince Hans-Adam II handed his constitutional powers to his son, Hereditary Prince Alois, though the elder prince retained his title as head of state. In a July 2012 referendum, 76 percent of voters rejected a proposal by prodemocracy advocates to prohibit the monarch from vetoing decisions made by the public in national referendums. Alois had threatened to abdicate if the proposal were approved.
In the February 2013 parliamentary elections, the FBP won 40 percent of the vote and 10 seats, while the Fatherland Union (VU) was second with 33.5 percent, for 8 seats. A new political grouping called the Independents (DU) took 15.3 percent, for 4 seats, capitalizing on public anger at the government’s proposed austerity policies. The leftist Free List party took 11.1 percent, for 3 seats. The FBP’s Adrian Hasler replaced the VU’s Klaus Tschütscher as prime minister.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 15 / 16
Political parties can organize freely. The VU and the FBP, both conservative parties, have dominated politics over the last half-century; power last changed hands in 2013. However, after the DU’s strong debut in the February 2013 elections, for the first time the parliament had four political groupings represented. There were no members of ethnic minorities represented.
C. Functioning of Government: 12 / 12
Liechtenstein’s politics and society are largely free of corruption. Liechtenstein is a leading offshore tax haven and has traditionally maintained tight bank secrecy laws. However, in 2009, the principality agreed to comply with transparency and tax information–sharing standards as outlined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In July 2013, Liechtenstein’s oldest and second-largest bank, Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG, reached a settlement with U.S. prosecutors, agreeing to pay $23.8 million to avoid criminal charges. The bank admitted that it had facilitated tax evasion by U.S. customers from 2001 to 2011, helping them conceal as much as $341 million. It turned over information on more than 200 undeclared accounts. Liechtenstein had amended its bank secrecy laws in 2012 to allow such data sharing.
The government of Nigeria in October 2013 accused Liechtenstein of using legal maneuvers to avoid returning €185 million ($243 million) allegedly stolen from the state by the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Liechtenstein’s government said it was seeking to return the money but had to wait for the European Court of Human Rights to rule on a lawsuit brought by companies linked to Abacha’s relatives. Nigeria first requested Liechtenstein’s help with recouping the funds in 2000.
Civil Liberties: 59 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16
The constitution guarantees freedoms of expression and the press, though the law prohibits public insults directed against a race or ethnic group. Liechtenstein has one private television station, one privately held radio station, and two main newspapers that are roughly aligned with the major political parties; citizens have access to foreign broadcasting. Internet access is not restricted.
The constitution protects religious freedom, and the criminal code prohibits any form of discrimination against any religion or its adherents. However, the constitution also establishes the Roman Catholic Church as the national church. Catholic or Protestant religious education is mandatory in all primary schools, but exemptions are routinely granted. Islamic religious classes have been introduced in some primary schools since 2008. All religious groups are tax-exempt. The government respects academic freedom.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are protected, and the principality has one small trade union. A 2008 law provides civil servants with the right to strike. Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations are able to function freely.
F. Rule of Law: 15 / 16
The judiciary is independent and impartial despite the appointment of judges by the hereditary monarch. Due process is respected, and prison conditions meet international standards.
A third of the population is foreign born. Some native citizens have expressed concern over the growing number of immigrants from non-German-speaking countries, such as Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The government has responded by teaching recent immigrants the language and culture of Liechtenstein in formal integration programs. Foreigners have occasionally been the target of violence by right-wing groups. The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 16 / 16
A gender salary gap persists, with women earning on average 17.8 percent less than men for equal work in 2010. Following a 2005 reform, abortion is legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but only in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or she was under 14 when she conceived. A law allowing same-sex registered partnerships took effect in 2011.
A February 2013 report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance cited “reports of discrimination in access to employment, as well as in remuneration,” for immigrants.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year