Liechtenstein Monarch Will Keep Veto Powers After Referendum

Liechtenstein’s hereditary monarch retained his veto powers after winning a referendum sparked by his threat to block moves to legalize abortion in the Alpine principality.

Citizens of the Manhattan-sized country voted 76 percent to 24 percent in favor of Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein retaining his right to overrule plebiscites, the government said today on its website after all the votes were counted. Eighty-three percent of eligible voters participated, it said.

The prince angered some residents when he threatened in August to use his veto should the electorate support a campaign to legalize abortion. Sidelining 44-year-old Alois, whose family owns Liechtenstein’s biggest bank, would jeopardize the prosperity that gives the country’s 36,000 residents the world’s second-highest per capita income after Monaco, according to royalist lobby group Prince and People.

“It would have dramatic consequences for the future of our country,” Alexander Batliner, head of the center-right Progressive Citizens’ Party, which forms a coalition government with the larger Patriotic Union, said before the poll. “With this dualism of the prince and the people, our sovereignty is better protected than if we were a republic.”

The royal family has only exercised the veto once over the transfer of hunting rights in 1961. When Alois’s father Hans-Adam II warned that he might leave Liechtenstein in 2003, the electorate granted him more powers in a move the Council of Europe said was “a serious backward step” for democracy.

“It’s tragic that a large part of the country’s elite, including famous managers of important companies, fear the prince’s exodus and with him the country’s success,” Mario Frick, the former head of government and chairman of the private bank Frick & Co. AG, said before the vote. “It would be good if the people get the last say, because under the current situation the country looks a bit backward.”

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