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Prince Hans Adam von und zu Liechtenstein, left, celebrates the referendum results with his son Prince Alois in Vaduz on Sunday.

Peter Klaunzer/AP

Voters in Liechtenstein rejected a proposal to abolish the ruling prince's right to veto the results of popular referendums on Sunday, underscoring how citizens see the ruling family as integral to the principality's wealth and stability.

The referendum was proposed by pro-democracy campaigners after Crown Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein said last year he would block the legalization of abortion if citizens approved it in a referendum. In the end, citizens rejected it anyway.

Official figures showed 76.1 per cent of voters, or 11,629 people, rejected the proposal on Sunday. Turnout was 82.9 per cent.

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The crown prince and his father Prince Hans Adam II were greeted with loud cheers and applause when they appeared in Vaduz to thank voters for their support.

"I want to thank you dearly that with such a convincing 'yes' you have agreed to continue the 300-year-old partnership between the people and the royal house, which been so successful up to now," Prince Hans Adam said.

The royal family could have vetoed having its power of veto voted down.

That would have made Crown Prince Alois the first prince to use his veto since his grandfather, Franz Joseph II, blocked a revision of the country's hunting laws three decades ago. Prince Hans-Adam II never exercised the right of veto.

Crown Prince Alois rules the Alpine principality, which is wedged between Switzerland and Austria. Prince Hans-Adam II remains head of state, but has passed most of his powers to his son.

Liechtenstein is the only monarchy in Europe to still have any real executive power and the crown prince said in March that the monarchy would quit the country if the veto were introduced, undermining stability and affluence for all.

The Liechtenstein royal family is credited with transforming the country from a rural backwater into a wealthy banking centre, making the country's 36,000 inhabitants some of the world's wealthiest, with national output per head expected to top $141,000 in 2012.

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"It was a dreadful proposal. If we didn't have the prince, our country would be a lot worse off," said Christina Buechel, 60, who voted 'no' in the referendum.

Crown Prince Alois' family has ruled the 160-square-kilometre principality since 1699 and he has been the effective ruler since his father handed over power after a constitutional crisis in 2003.The ruling Liechtenstein family has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $5-billion.

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 per cent who supported abolishing the veto right have taken the result into account and won't try this again in nine years."

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.

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

With a report from AP and AFP

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