12 AUGUST 2004

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Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein has announced that he will abdicate this weekend. As of Sunday morning all the sovereign's powers will pass to his son, Prince Alois. There will be no public ceremony to mark the transferral of power, but the new leader is expected to give a public address once he has acceded to the throne.

Hans-Adam's decision comes after a controversial 15-year reign. He first took control of the country back in 1989 when his father, Franz Josef, passed away. Since then he has worked hard to modernise Liechtenstein's economy and win admission to the United Nations.

More recently the monarch sparked a furious political row by threatening to abdicate if the nation's 33,000 residents did not support a referendum giving him sweeping constitutional powers. He even joked that he would sell the royal palace to Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates if the vote did not go his way.

But despite criticisms from other European leaders, Hans-Adam emerged victorious in the referendum. For the past 18 months he has been slowly devolving executive powers on his 36-year-old son. And Prince Alois seems to share his father's headstrong character. Last year he suggested that Liechtenstein should leave the Council of Europe if it carried out its threat to monitor the country's democratic processes.


Prince Hans-Adam has enjoyed 15 controversial years at the helm of his country. He says that winning a seat at the United Nations was his greatest achievement
Photo: AFP
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Three generations of the royal family join in national day celebrations. From left: Prince Hans-Adam, his wife Princess Marie, Prince Alois, his son and daughter Joseph and Marie, and wife Princess Sophie
Photo: PA

prince hans-adam, prince alois

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