Voters reject call to curb Prince's power of veto


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The Independent Online

It wasn't quite a North Korean poll result, but burghers of Alpine tax haven Liechtenstein gave their reigning prince a resounding vote of confidence yesterday in a referendum which flatly rejected attempts to curb royal power in one of Europe's most undemocratic countries.

Proposals to strip Liechtenstein's ruling Prince Hans-Adam, 67, of his all-embracing power of veto were opposed by 60 five per cent of the country's 36,000 subjects in a referendum organised by pro-democracy campaigners. Only 15 per cent voted in favour of the proposal.

Sigvard Wohlwend, one of the organisers of the referendum, said he was disappointed by the outcome. He described the prince and his son, Crown Prince Alois, 43, who has been acting in his father's stead since 2004 as "the most powerful monarchs in Europe".

He said the prince of Liechtenstein held the absolute right to veto any decision taken by parliament and the people. "They have the right to dissolve government and dismiss parliament. No judges can be appointed without the approval of the prince," he added.

The referendum was prompted by a national vote last September on whether to decriminalise abortion. Days before the poll, Prince Alois Ω a devout Cathlic – declared he would use his power of veto to oppose any changes to the country's abortion ban, regardless of what voters decided.

The turnout for the referendum collapsed as a result. But a minority group of pro-democracy campaigners were so enraged by his threat that they immediately began organising yesterday's referendum.

However, most of Liechtenstein's voters were clearly unimpressed. As inhabitants of the world's second richest nation after Monaco, they are suspicious of change. The country has an average per capita income of £85,000 and is home to hundreds of millionaires.

Markus Burgler, who launched an internet campaign to back the prince and his power of veto said: "The prince is like a father to us. We are prosperous under him, he is a guardian who ensures stability."