Liechtenstein voters elect new government
A loosely knit group of independent candidates, including a cross-dressing mechanic, surged Sunday to become Liechtenstein's third-largest party in general elections that dealt a heavy loss to the prime minister's party.
The brand new Independents, or DU, came out of nowhere to take 15.3 percent of the national vote and four seats in the tiny Alpine principality's 25-seat parliament, according to the official results.
Its entrance into the house marks the first time the chamber will seat four parties.
Prime Minister Klaus Tschuetscher's liberal-conservative Patriotic Union party (VU) meanwhile saw its support plunge 14.1 percentage points compared with its 2009 result to take 33.5 percent of Sunday's vote, and eight seats in parliament.
Tschuetscher was reportedly expected to step aside and allow Liechtenstein's former police chief Adrian Hasler of the centre-right Progressive Citizens Party (FBP) take over the reins of the government.
FBP saw its support shrink 3.5 percentage points compared with four years ago, but it still secured 40 percent of the vote and 10 seats in the house, becoming the country's largest party.
The leftist-green Free List party meanwhile gained 2.2 percentage points to take 11.1 percent of the vote and three seats, in an election with a turnout of 79.8 percent.
Observers said DU's surprise success should be seen as a protest vote in the tiny nation, long considered a tax haven, which has been struggling to clean up its banking system.
Amid the eurozone crisis, Liechtenstein has been hit with a budget deficit and dwindling government revenues.
Banker and previous VU parliamentarian Harry Quaderer heads the Independents, whose website claims they are not a party.
Their platform covers a broad range of sometimes seemingly conflicting issues, including providing affordable housing, not raising taxes and balancing the state budget.
The four independents who won seats in Sunday's election include a patent attorney and a communications executive as well as the cross-dressing mechanic, who is 60.
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.