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LIECHTENSTEIN

Liechtenstein votes to keep royal veto

Voters in Liechtenstein on Sunday rejected a move to limit the powers of the royal family in a controversial referendum seeking to abolish the ruling prince's right to veto legislation.

Liechtenstein votes to keep royal veto
Information und Kommunikation der Regierung, Vaduz

A total of 76.1 percent voted against the proposals for the tiny Alpine principality, where the ruling Liechtenstein family has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $5 billion.

Crown Prince Alois, who was appointed acting head of state by his father Hans-Adam II in 2004, had threatened to quit if the referendum passed and eliminated the veto right which is enshrined in the constitution.

The prince on Sunday welcomed “a clear result which (is) a good base for meeting future challenges facing the principality”.

His father said in a statement that he was “happy and grateful that a large majority of the population wanted to continue the 300-year-old effective partnership between the people and the royals.”

Voter turnout was high at 82.9 percent.

A number of voters who rejected the proposals expressed their satisfaction on the Facebook page “For God, the prince and the country”.

“There, it’s very clear for the second time this century,” wrote Micha Tarnutzer, referring to a previous attempt to modify the constitution in 2003.

“I hope the 23.9 percent who supported abolishing the veto right have taken the result into account and won’t try this again in nine years.”

The movement to limit the royal powers first gained steam last year, when Alois, a 43-year-old father of four, threatened to veto a referendum legalising abortion.

A committee of supporters of the abolition, who campaigned with the slogan “Yes, so that your voice counts” said it was “disappointed” by the result.   

“We had hoped that this fundamental right would have greater approval,” the committee said in a statement.

With some 36,000 inhabitants, the bucolic monarchy sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland enjoys one of the highest living standards in the world thanks to its industrial and financial sectors.

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REFERENDUM

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum

Switzerland's decision to purchase US-made fighter jets could be put to a referendum,

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum
Swiss fighter jets. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Switzerland’s government on Wednesday backed the purchase of 36 F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin to replace its fleet and five Patriot air defence units from fellow US manufacturer Raytheon.

Switzerland’s current air defence equipment will reach the end of its service life in 2030 and has been undergoing a long and hotly-contested search for replacements.

“The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future,” the government said in a statement.

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

The decision will now be put to the Swiss parliament — and also risks being challenged at the ballot box, with left-wingers and an anti-militarist group looking to garner enough signatures to trigger a public vote.

The F-35A was chosen ahead of the Airbus Eurofighter; the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing; and French firm Dassault’s Rafale.

For the ground-based air defence (GBAD) system, Patriot was selected ahead of SAMP/T by France’s Eurosam.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the government statement said. Switzerland is famously neutral. However, its long-standing position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

“A fleet of 36 aircraft would be large enough to cover Switzerland’s airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions,” the government said.

“The air force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.” 

Long path to decision 

Switzerland began to seek replacements for its ageing fleet of fighter jets more than a decade ago, but the issue has become caught up in a political battle in the wealthy Alpine nation.

The Swiss government has long argued for the need to quickly replace its 30 or so F/A-18 Hornets, which will reach the end of their lifespan in 2030, and the F-5 Tigers, which have been in service for four decades and are not equipped for night flights.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the public vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.

Bern launched a new selection process four years later, and a referendum last year to release six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) for the purchase of the fighters of the government’s choice squeezed through with 50.1 percent of voters in favour.

During the referendum campaign, the government warned that without a swift replacement for its fleet, “Switzerland will no longer be in a position to protect and even less defend its airspace by 2030”.

Currently, the fleet does not have the capacity to support ground troops for reconnaissance missions or to intervene against ground targets.

Meanwhile Switzerland’s current GBAD system is also old and lacks the capacity to meet the widening spectrum of modern threats.

The military currently relies on a range of Rapier and Stinger short-range missiles that have been in service since 1963.

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