|Series Title||The Economist|
|Series Details||No.8136, 22.3.03|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog, News|
A vote for greater princely power in one of Europe's smallest countries
BETTER a bossy feudal master than no master at all. That, roughly, is what the voters of Liechtenstein, a tiny principality sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, decided on March 16th when they voted two to one to rejig their constitution to give the ruling prince, Hans-Adam II, more powers than any other European monarch.
Under the princely family's rule, Liechtenstein's 33,000 people have prospered hugely. A dirt-poor Alpine valley has turned into an international financial centre, albeit one with a reputation clouded by allegations of money-laundering and tax evasion. The proposed new constitution gives the current ruler, a stiff-mannered moderniser, the right to sack governments and veto judges' appointments. Had it been turned down, he had threatened to move back to his family home in Vienna.
The Council of Europe, a talking-shop for democracies, promised a close look at the results. “I hope that the new rules will be used to strengthen the democratic institutions and that the courts will keep their independence,” said its secretary-general, Walter Schwimmer.
Another problem is the bad feeling left by the referendum. Traditional-minded Liechtensteiners dislike the democracy campaigners, who they think threaten the country's stability and prosperity. One campaigner against the new constitution, Mario Frick, found a rotting pig's snout in front of his office.
The big question now is how far Liechtenstein can really clean up its reputation for financial dodginess. The correct way to address Hans-Adam (and other princes) is “Durchlaucht” (serenity). Extending that quality - and transparency - from court etiquette to the financial system would please a lot of people, not least German tax collectors.
|Countries / Regions||Liechtenstein|