Thursday, July 19, 2012

Liechtenstein: Europe's Pro-Active, Functioning Monarchy

Officially, Europe's various monarchies are important.  Not only are they suppose to represent the country as a whole (while prime ministers act merely as the head of a government), the government rules only with the monarch's approval and every European monarch has some official religious function (either head of the church in Protestant countries or a defender of the faith in Catholic ones).  In reality, however, the monarch just is a rubber stamp for the prime minister-led government and church affairs are left to church officials and religious committees in parliament.  For the most part monarchs also stay out of politics to avoid conflict with "their" government and to remain non-divisive.

Liechtenstein's monarchy is different.  Regent Alois, son of Prince Hans Adam II, announced in 2011 that he would veto a referendum which would legalize abortion if passed.  The people then rejected the abortion referendum 52% to 47% (only 500 votes difference).  Those upset by the loss pressed for a new referendum which would take away the monarchy's right to veto laws passed by public vote.  Alois fought back by saying that if the referendum passed he and his family would renounce the throne and leave the country.  This would more or less force Liechtenstein to become a republic.  Earlier this month the people voted against the new referendum 76% to 24%.

The monarchy of Liechtenstein survived and now shown its public backing.  Even in the twenty-first century, European monarchies can still have strength.  Depending on if rumors are true, Queen Elizabeth II may veto the Conservative-Liberal Democrat bill approving gay marriage if passed.  However, this would be significantly more challenging as the monarchy may not survive a battle of wills (and existence) against the British government.  Multicultural, secular Britain is not homogenous Liechtenstein.

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