By Sebastian Wolf (Medical School Berlin, formerly Liechtenstein-Institut, Bendern)
The national election in the Principality of Liechtenstein on February 5th, 2017 was a regular election. About 19.800 citizens had to vote a new Landtag, Liechtenstein’s unicameral part-time parliament with only 25 seats. Although it is a duty to vote according to the microstate’s law, only 77.8% of the eligible voters participated. In 2013, the turnout was 79.8% and earlier elections had even higher voter turnouts. For the first time, a voting advice application called wahlhilfe.li was created in order to help voters to find the candidates that fit best their attitudes and interests. The election results do not differ much from the outcome four years ago. Again, four parties participated and all succeeded in passing the exceptional high election threshold of 8% of the vote. The Fortschrittliche Bürgerpartei (Progressive Citizens’ Party, FBP), the party of Regierungschef (Prime Minister) Adrian Hasler, remained the strongest party. Nevertheless, it only received 35.2% of the vote (nine seats), i.e. it lost 4.8% and one parliamentary seat compared to the last election. But it is clear that the old Prime Minister will also be the new one.
The FBP’s coalition partner, the Vaterländische Union (Patriotic Union, VU), once again failed to become the strongest party in parliament. It got 33.7% of the vote, 0.2% more than in 2013, and again eight parliamentary mandates. The FBP and VU, two liberal center-right parties supporting monarchy, have usually formed grand coalition governments during the last decades. Therefore, the VU is likely to nominate once again two of the ministers while three ministers including the Prime Minister will be FBP politicians. The opposition party Die Unabhängigen (The Independents, DU) got 18.4% of the vote. It gained 3.1% and an additional seat (i.e. five mandates). DU is anti-elitist, EU-sceptical, and supports large-scale polices of cuts. In 2013, the then newly founded DU movement surprisingly got four seats and even overtook Liechtenstein’s well-established small opposition party Freie Liste (Free List, FL). The FL is a left-wing, ecological and feminist party criticizing the monarchy’s strong political powers. It got 12.6% of the vote, i.e. 1.5% more than in 2013, and again three parliamentary mandates.
As noted before, the old center-right coalition government consisting of the two biggest parties is likely to be the new one. Liechtenstein has a long tradition of FBP-VU coalitions. Three of the current ministers, including the Prime Minister, will keep their offices: All FBP ministers – Adrian Hasler, Aurelia Frick, and Mauro Pedrazzini – were nominated again by their party. The VU nominated Thomas Zwiefelhofer, the current Vice Prime Minister, as well as Dominique Gantenbein and Daniel Risch. After the rather disappointing results of his party, Mr. Zwiefelhofer assumed personal responsibility and declared that he does not intend to be a member of the next government. That means that either Mrs. Gantenbein or Mr. Risch will become Vice Prime Minister in the future. The acting head of state, Hereditary Prince Alois, is unlikely to interfere with the process of government formation.
Liechtenstein’s electoral system is based on proportional representation and enables voters to select individual candidates from different parties. Seven members of parliament did not run again for a mandate in the 2017 election. 13 politicians, slightly more than half of the current MPs, were re-elected: Wendelin Lampert, Albert Frick – the current Landtagspräsident (speaker of parliament) –, Eugen Nägele, Johannes Kaiser, and Elfried Hasler from the FBP; Frank Konrad, Christoph Wenaweser, Thomas Vogt, and Violanda Lanter-Koller from the VU; Harry Quaderer, Herbert Elkuch, and Erich Hasler from the DU; and Thomas Lageder from the FL. The next Landtag will have 12 new members: Daniel F. Seger, Susanne Eberle-Strub, Johannes Hasler, and Daniel Oehry from the FBP; Manfred Kaufmann, Günter Vogt, Mario Wohlwend, and Gunilla Marxer-Kranz from the VU; Jürgen Beck and Thomas Rehak from the DU; as well as Georg Kaufmann and Patrick Risch from the FL. Five parliamentarians were voted out of office: Karin Rüdisser-Quaderer, Peter Büchel (both VU), Pio Schurti (DU), Helen Konzett Bargetze, and Wolfgang Marxer (both FL).
It is a bit surprising that two well-known FL politicians, including parliamentary group leader Helen Konzett Bargetze, were voted out of office although the party got more votes than in 2013. The next Landtag will only have three female members (12%), two less than currently. Once again, it seems that a significant number of citizens deliberately did not vote for female candidates. Thus, in the next legislative period the whole parliamentary opposition will only consist of male MPs. In contrast, the future government will probably include two female ministers (40%) again. The next government coalition will still have a convenient parliamentary majority (17 out of 25 seats). Nevertheless, the government could have more problems to find majorities for its policies than in the past. The members of parliament were already more self-confident and unpredictable during the last four years. In the Landtag, clear-cut majorities along the coalition/opposition cleavage tend to be rather rare. Individual FBP and VU politicians quite often do not vote with the respective majority of their parliamentary groups. On the other hand, several opposition MPs frequently support government initiatives at least during the final vote in parliament. The next government might seek to attain broad issue-specific majorities even before it officially tables important initiatives. And maybe Liechtenstein’s political elite will eventually carefully reflect how the DU, a populist-like party, might benefit from the seemingly endless FBP-VU grand coalitions.
Photo source: http://www.vaterland.li/ausland/international/Liechtensteiner-Grossparteien-unter-Druck;art102,250417