Prince Hans-Adam shakes his eldest son's hand after transferring governing duties to the 36-year-old royal
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Proud mum Princess Marie congratulates her son Prince Alois on his new post
Photo: © PA

16 AUGUST 2004

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In what he described as a "transition to a new generation", Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein handed over state leadership of the country to his eldest son, Crown Prince Alois, on Sunday.

Thousands of tourists and residents of the tiny Alpine principality, tucked between Switzerland and Austria, gathered for a garden party following the ceremony, in which the 59-year-old ruler ceded power to the crown prince.

"A large responsibility has come to me today," said 36-year-old Prince Alois, in his first speech as Liechtenstein's ruler. "But I have the luxury that my father has included me in many important decisions and so I am well prepared." In taking over the post, Alois now has the authority to dismiss governments, veto new laws and cast the deciding vote on naming judges. His father, however, will formally remain head of state.

Prince Hans-Adam, who famously threatened to sell the principality to Microsoft, won greater political powers last year after a constitutional debate which greatly divided the population. Many now speculate that the leadership of the crown prince will offer the principality a chance to heal any rifts sparked during his father's rule.

"Hans-Adam has been a provocateur," said former Prime Minister Mario Frick, who opposed the prince's constitutional changes. "He liked to be in the middle of a quarrel. Many people hope Prince Alois… will want to calm things down."