The Prince is the Head of State of Liechtenstein. Together with the People he exercises authority of state in accordance with the provisions of Liechtenstein’s Constitution and the other laws.
While the Prince and the People have their own, independent rights and obligations, many tasks can only be performed jointly. For example, draft legislation must be approved by both the Prince and the People. The People’s consent is given either indirectly through the Parliament (Landtag) or directly in a referendum.
The following rights and obligations of the Head of State are enshrined in Liechtenstein’s Constitution:
The Prince represents the state in all its relations with foreign nations,
a role that he performs regardless of the required cooperation of the responsible government. He either personally signs international treaties or delegates their signature to an authorized representative. Some treaties under international law require the approval of the Parliament in order to be valid.
Every decision of the Parliament on the approval of an international treaty is subject to a referendum if it so decides or if a referendum is requested by at least 1500 eligible voters or at least four municipalities.
In foreign relations, the Prince plays a particularly active role that extends way beyond general official duties. Some examples of the Princely House’s active foreign policy are the establishment of the Bern Embassy under Prince Franz Josef II at his own expense in 1994 and Liechtenstein’s admission to the United Nations in 1990 and its accession to the European Economic Area in 1995 under Prince Hans-Adam II.
The Prince is actively involved in lawmaking. He has the right of initiative and sanction.
The right of initiative enables the Prince to introduce a decree, an amendment or a repeal of a law in the form of government bills. Every law must be sanctioned by the Prince. If the Prince does not approve the law within six months, it is deemed to have been rejected.
Unlike in many other states, as the Head of State the Prince is not merely an official figurehead who just formally signs or sanctions laws; the Princely sanction is in fact integral to lawmaking. The bill does not acquire force of law and become valid until sanctioned by the Prince and then countersigned by the Prime Minister and announced.
If the Prince refuses to sanction the law, it does not enter into force and has definitively failed. So far, the Princely House has only exercised this right of veto on two occasions: in 1961 when a new hunting law was submitted and in 1994 when the constitutional court act was amended.
The Prince has the power to enact Princely decrees.
It is by means of such a decree, for example, that the Prince convenes the Parliament at the start of a year. The emergency decree is also a Princely decree. In emergencies, the Prince may use this clause to take measures for the security and welfare of the state without involving the Parliament; however, he does require the countersignature of the Prime Minister. Emergency decrees expire no more than six months after their enactment.
The Prince appoints the judges according to a special process.
The judges are selected by a committee, which is comprised as follows: Prince (Chair), members of the Parliament and a member of the government (Ministry for Justice) and additional members convened by the Prince. This committee proposes candidates to the Parliament for election, who must also be approved by the Prince.
If the Parliament then elects the candidate, he or she is appointed Judge by the Prince. If the Parliament rejects the candidate recommended by the committee and no agreement can be reached on a new candidate within four weeks, the Parliament must propose an alternative candidate and call a referendum.
In the event of a referendum, voting citizens are also entitled to nominate candidates subject to the conditions of an initiative. The candidate who garners the absolute majority of votes is appointed Judge by the Prince. This election process applies for judges at all ordinary courts, judges at the Administrative Court and judges at the Constitutional Court.
The Prince has the right to pardon.
This includes mitigating or commuting sentences that have been legally pronounced, and quashing prosecutions that have been initiated.
The Prince has the right to convene and close the Parliament and, for important reasons, to adjourn it at the most for three months or to dissolve it.
Traditionally, the Prince opens the Parliament at the start of the year with a ceremonious speech.
The Prince appoints the Prime Minister and the members of government by agreement with the Parliament, at the latter’s suggestion.
The Prince swears in the Prime Minister. Should the government lose the confidence of the Prince or the Parliament, its mandate to exercise its office expires. Should an individual member of government lose the confidence of the Prince or the Parliament, a decision on the loss of authority to exercise his or her office is mutually reached by the Prince and the Parliament.
In the event of an accession to the throne, the Parliament must be convened to an extraordinary session within 30 days.
At this session, the successor to the throne confirms in a written document that he “will govern the Principality of Liechtenstein in accordance with the Constitution and the other laws, preserve its integrity and inseparably and similarly observe the sovereign rights.” The members of parliament then swear the oath of allegiance.
The people may bring a substantiated no-confidence motion against the Prince.
Such a motion must be demanded by at least 1500 eligible voters. In the event of a no-confidence motion, the Parliament makes a recommendation and orders a referendum. If the motion is accepted by the people, the House Law of the Princely House must be followed.
The people may introduce an initiative to abolish the monarchy.
Such an initiative must be demanded by at least 1500 eligible voters. If the initiative is accepted by the people, the Parliament must draw up a new Constitution for a republic. It must submit this to a referendum no sooner than after one year and no later than after two years. The Prince has the right to submit a new Constitution for the same referendum.