San Marino | Freedom House

Report Navigation

Country Reports

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2018

San Marino


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Freedom Status: 

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

San Marino
Press Freedom Status: 

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, heavy fines for defamation can encourage self-censorship. Women are underrepresented in politics

Key Developments in 2017:

  • In March, a popular initiative to legalize abortion triggered strong divisions between the newly elected center-left government and the conservative opposition, which draws support from Catholic movements.
  • In June, a number of high-ranking former politicians were sentenced after being convicted of money laundering and other corruption charges, as part of the so-called Conto-Mazzini case.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 



A1.      Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4

Executive power rests with the 10-member State Congress (cabinet), which is accountable to parliament and is headed by two captains regent. As the joint heads of state, the captains are elected every six months by members of the unicameral legislature, 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; Nicola Renzi was elected to the post in 2016.

A2.      Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4

The 60 members of the unicameral Great and General Council are elected every five years. The November 2016 elections were considered credible and free, and their results were accepted by stakeholders and the public. After two rounds of elections, the center-left coalition finished first with 35 seats, and unseated the ruling San Marino First coalition, which took the remaining 25 seats.

A3.      Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4 / 4

The electoral laws provide a sound basis for the organization of free and fair elections. However, in 2016, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) urged San Marino to adopt legislation on the financing of political parties, noting that the current funding rules are insufficiently transparent.


B1.      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 / 4

Parties are free to form and operate in San Marino, and a great number of them contest elections. Since 2008, most parties are part of larger electoral coalitions.

B2.      Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4 / 4

There are no restrictions preventing the opposition from increasing support through elections. Multiple opposition parties are represented in the Great and General Council.

B3.      Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group that is not democratically accountable? 4 / 4

There are no powerful groups without democratic legitimacy that influence or limit people’s political choices.

B4.      Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3 / 4

About 18 percent of the population consists of noncitizens who do not have political rights. Under San Marino’s strict naturalization criteria, one must live in the country for over 30 years to obtain citizenship.

Women comprised 55 percent of eligible voters in the 2016 polls, but are underrepresented in the Great and General Council, where they hold 23 percent of seats, and in politics generally. An Organization for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) assessment mission deployed ahead of the 2016 polls noted that gender quotas on candidate lists were undercut by the country’s preferential voting system. Women are better represented in the country’s Electoral Council and in polling administration.


C1.      Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4 / 4

The government and parliament exercise their powers without undue influence from unelected actors.

C2.      Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3 / 4

In response to a number of scandals involving high-ranking officials, San Marino has recently launched a series of programs to combat corruption and money laundering. In its July 2016 progress report, GRECO noted that significant progress has been made regarding the criminalization of corruption offences in the public sector.

In June 2017, a large number of former politicians were convicted for their involvement in bribery, corruption, money laundering, and vote buying. In this so-called Conto-Mazzini case, multiple former captains regent and ministers received prison sentences ranging from two to eight years, meaning that a large part of the former political elite will be imprisoned.  

C3.      Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 4 / 4

Laws providing for the accessibility of government information are in place, and the government generally respected those laws.



D1.      Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4

Freedom of speech and the press are generally upheld. Local media are pluralistic, and journalists investigate key issues including financial crimes. However, convictions under San Marino’s strict defamation laws can carry hundreds of thousands of euros in damages, and reportedly prompt self-censorship among journalists.

D2.      Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4 / 4

Religious freedom is broadly upheld in San Marino. Religious discrimination is prohibited by law. There is no state religion, although Roman Catholicism is dominant, and Catholic religious instruction is offered in schools (though it is not mandatory).

D3.      Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4 / 4

Academic freedom is respected.

D4.      Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4 / 4

Freedom of expression is legally safeguarded, and people are free to express their views on politics and other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution.


E1.      Is there freedom of assembly? 4 / 4

Freedom of assembly is upheld in practice. Several demonstrations against an initiative by the new government to legalize abortion took place in 2017.

E2.      Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4 / 4

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

E3.      Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4 / 4

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 labor activity.

F. RULE OF LAW: 16 / 16

F1.       Is there an independent judiciary? 4 / 4

The judiciary is independent. Lower court judges are required to be noncitizens to ensure impartiality; most are Italian nationals. The highest court is the Council of Twelve, a group of judges chosen for six-year terms from among the members of the Great and General Council.

F2.       Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 4 / 4

Due process rights are generally upheld. Arbitrary arrests and detentions are prohibited by law, and the government respected these laws in practice.

F3.       Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 4 / 4

Civilian authorities maintain effective control over the police and security forces. There is one prison in San Marino and the inmate population is small.  Law enforcement agents generally operate with professionalism.

F4.       Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 4 / 4

The law prohibits the publication of ideas related to racial or ethnic superiority and discrimination.

Women face societal discrimination that affects their access to employment and economic opportunity. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged San Marino to strengthen its legal framework against discrimination, in particular gender discrimination.


G1.      Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4 / 4

There are no restrictions on the freedom of movement, and San Marino residents may freely choose their place of residence, employment, and education.

G2.      Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 4 / 4

The rights to own property and establish business are upheld.

G3.      Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 4 / 4

Personal freedoms are generally safeguarded in San Marino. However, there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples. In 2014, the government rejected a proposal to fully recognize the rights of same-sex couples who were legally married abroad.  

Women are given legal protections from violence and spousal abuse. A popular 2017 initiative to legalize abortion met fierce resistance from conservative Catholic groups.

 G4.     Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 4 / 4

San Marino has no national minimum wage, though some sectors have set their own. The government generally upholds labor protections for workers, and provides assistance to low-income individuals. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in 2015 called on San Marino to continue with efforts to better protect foreign women employed as caregivers or domestic workers.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: