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European Royals

Europe’s last ‘absolute’ monarchy: the sovereign’s powers in Liechtenstein

Hans Adam II Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is one of the last remaining ‘absolute’ monarchies in the world, a fact that becomes even more evident as it stands in stark contrast with the general tendency of monarchies to move towards a parliamentarian prevalence. 

Instead, this tiny principality, nestled between Switzerland and Austria, has grated its Sovereign Prince increasing powers as late as 2003, with another referendum being called in 2012 that vehemently rejected the possibility of cutting back or limiting the powers of the Sovereign Prince. 

As a result, the Prince of Liechtenstein has political powers that modern-day monarchs can only have read about in their ancestors’ biographies. Prince Hans-Adam, the current ruler of Liechtenstein, can take political decisions and weigh in on current events in the country. 

In fact, he has done so for both the aforementioned referenda, both times threatening to leave the country if the people did not vote his way. 

During the 2012 referendum, the people of Liechtenstein were also asked about relaxing bans on abortions; during the campaign, the Sovereign Prince came out saying that, no matter what the outcome of the vote, he would veto any relaxation of said norms. Abortion bans ended up being maintained the way they were before the referendum. 

Like many other micronations, Liechtenstein does not have an army; for internal security, it has the Liechtenstein National Police, boasting a whopping…125 employees, as of 2011, for a population of 36,189 in the same year. More realistically, it relies on the help of its neighbours, Switzerland and Austria, for any military needs. 

It helps that the country has one of the world’s lowest crime rates; according to recent statistics, the last murder dates back to April 2014. 

The current Sovereign Prince, Hans Adam II, is also the owner of LGT Bank through the Princely Family’s Foundation, making him the wealthiest monarch in Europe and one of the world’s richest heads of state. 

Liechtenstein may be small, but its sovereign has more power than many heads of state, especially in Europe, where most political powers are shared between different powers: Presidents, Prime Ministers and Parliament all have to balance their requests in order to make the legislative power work. In Liechtenstein, members of the legislature serve on a part-time basis and almost inevitably back the decisions of the Sovereign Prince. 

The country seems to have found a way to exist in its current state, even at a time when social and global pushes move towards a more equal and people-based state structure. If previous referenda are anything to go by, it seems unlikely that the principality will choose to give up the absolute powers of its Prince any time soon.