Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, the Principality of Liechtenstein is a prosperous constitutional monarchy with no military and a GDP per capita of $141,000. During the global recession, Liechtenstein has kept that prosperity, even surpassing Monaco’s GDP per capita in 2011.
Why, then, did the center-right ruling coalition lose a quarter of their seats in the Landtag?
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a success story unequaled by few in the world. At the turn of the 20th Century, it was a quiet little country with little to offer the world. World War I forced Liechtenstein to form a monetary union with Switzerland as its holdings in the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared with the Empire.
World War II and its aftermath also hurt Liechtenstein. The Anschluß put many of the Prince’s holdings in Nazi hands, while the new Prince’s wife was Jewish. After the War, the Prince lost all holdings in Poland and Czechoslovakia as these two States considered him an Austrian. This dispute continues today. It was only in 2009 that Liechtenstein formed diplomatic relations with Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The legality of the Beneš decrees, which allowed Czechoslovakia to take Liechtensteiner properties, is winding its way through the International Court of Justice (the first case was Liechtenstein v. Germany).
Looking at the recent history of court cases against the Beneš decrees (e.g., Brokova v. The Czech Republic), Liechtenstein has lost.
Thus, Liechtenstein found itself with little at the close of World War II. The ruling family lost the lion’s share of its wealth. The country had only an agricultural base, with little export. How, then, did Liechtenstein become the wealthiest country? They focused on banking and finance, setting corporate income tax at 20%. This has created over 70,000 holding companies in Liechtenstein, double its population. Between this, its banking activities, and its service industry, Liechtenstein produces a nominal GDP of over $5 billion.
In addition to the economic changes, Liechtenstein does not spend money on a military. It abolished its army in 1868 because it was too expensive. Now, between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein does not need one.
And so, Liechtenstein is a wealthy country in a beautiful part of Europe. It is peaceful. Its economic policies have succeeded. And yet, the center-right parties lost a quarter of their seats in this election.
After the 2009 election, three parties held seats in the Landtag. The Christian democratic Patriotic Union (Vaterländische Union; VU) held 13 of the 25 seats. The conservative Progressive Citizens’ Party in Liechtenstein (Fortschrittliche Bürgerpartei in Liechtenstein; FBP) held 11. These two parties formed a grand coalition, even though the VU held an absolute majority of the seats. The sole remaining seat belonged to the center-left Free List (Freie Liste; FL).
After the 2013 election, VU lost five seats and FBP lost one. The Free List party won three seats, an increase of two. The remaining four seats were won by a new political party, the Independents (DU). This party formed around Harry Quaderer, who left the VU in early 2011. Thus, VU’s loss is not as indicative of a leftward shift in Liechtenstein as it may have first appeared.
The Progressive Citizens’ Party won 43.5% in 2009, but only 40.0% in 2013. Most of that difference went to the Free List party, who increased its vote share by 2.2%.
Liechtenstein elects its Landtag members using proportional representation in two multi-seat constituencies: Oberland in the south and Unterland in the north. Oberland elects 15; Unterland, 10. The support level for each of the parties differs little between the two districts. This suggests a certain level of uniformity amongst Liechtensteiners. Of course in a country with a population of 36,000, homogeneity is expected.
In short, while the two leading parties lost a quarter of their seats, this did not represent a shift in the Liechtensteiner electorate. It only marked the birth of a new party.
|Official electoral body||Landtagswahlen|
|Landtag election||February 3, 2013|