Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Constitutional Mess in Liechtenstein

From his ancient schloss, dramatically perched on a clifftop high above his tiny capital city Vaduz, the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein rules his subjects as one of Europe's last truly powerful monarchs.
On Sunday he will find out if that is to end, when the result of a hard-fought referendum is announced on whether to cut his power.
The prince himself has warned that he might withdraw from his official duties if the vote goes against him - a threat, made in parliament, which many understood to mean that he and his family would pack up and leave for exile, with their wealth of around £3 billion.
Since the campaign took off, Prince Alois has rarely been seen in Vaduz, which lies directly below his castle with its fabulous views across the Rhine to snow-covered Alpine peaks.
Liechtensteiners often used to bump into him in its streets, with his wife Princess Sophie and their four children, shopping or drinking coffee in one of the little cafes sandwiched between big shiny banks and souvenir shops full of cuckoo clocks, where he is on first name terms with many of them. The familiarity does not go the other way - "Your Serene Highness" is what they call him.

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