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Monaco goes to the polls: explore the principality’s unique political system

origin 1Prince Albert II of Monaco after a private viewing of a photography exhibit in the Hall of States at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, November 2, 2022. ©Carolyn Kaster/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

The second smallest state in the world, after the Vatican, Monaco is a hereditary and constitutional monarchy. The Monegasques will vote this Sunday February 5, 2023, to renew their Parliament called the National Council.

What is the National Council?

In Monaco, legislative power is exercised jointly by Prince Albert II and the National Council.

Also known as the Monegasque Assembly, it is the unicameral parliament of the Principality. It is made up of 24 members elected for 5 years by universal suffrage. It is therefore the main representative body of the population. Vote on the laws proposed by the government.

It is currently chaired by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès.

Who votes?

Of the approximately 38,000 inhabitants of this tiny 2.02 km² principality, landlocked between Nice and Italy, but which is not part of the European Union, only 7,596 have the right to vote. Two conditions apply: they must be at least 25 years old and have Monegasque nationality.

How are the elections held?

The National Council is elected in a single mixed round which assigns 16 seats to the majority list, the remaining 8 seats are distributed proportionally among the lists that obtained more than 5% of the votes, and the electors have the possibility of a mix.

What’s the risk?

Although these advisers vote on the laws and the budget, they cannot question the political responsibility of the government and, if necessary, overthrow it, since the latter is only answerable to Albert II, the Sovereign Prince.

According to Thierry Brezzo from the “Monegasque National Union” list, the main issues at stake in this next mandate are:

the signing of any association agreement with the European Union; the preservation of the Monegasque model and specificities: “If priority for hiring, housing, the conditions of access to public contracts or certain regulated professions are not preserved, it is the entire Monegasque social pact that would be called into question” fears The lawyer.

How many lists?

Two lists are competing in this election.

In the role of favorite, the “Monegasque National Union” and its 13 outgoing deputies, led by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès, a 63-year-old former teacher, the first woman elected president of the National Council since its creation in 1911.

Opposite to, “New Ideas for Munich”led by the current dean of the Council, Daniel Boéri, 78, a former member of the majority.

With only 14 candidates, Boéri admits he had “difficulty” putting his list together, due to “fantastic pressure”. But he hopes to distinguish himself for “the vision” proposed, even if, between these two lists, “one cannot say that there are ideological distinctions, but rather philosophical ones”.

“New ideas for Monaco” intends “to launch debates, in particular on women’s rights and on how to go beyond abortion within the framework of the Constitution”. Although voluntary termination of pregnancy was decriminalized in Munich in 2019 and women who undergo an abortion no longer risk prison, performing an abortion is still prohibited.

Boéri also called on the Monegasque government to systematically evaluate the “ecological impact of the decisions taken”.

What is the link between Monaco and Europe?

Like Andorra and San Marino, Monaco has been negotiating with the European Union since March 2015 to sign an association agreement. The aim is to make life easier for its citizens and businesses within the European internal market. The main challenge is to increase the economic attractiveness of Monaco.

This would, for example, eliminate the obstacles encountered by Monegasque economic operators in accessing the European internal market. This would ensure greater legal certainty in their exchanges. According to the Monegasque government, an agreement would also allow citizens to move more easily within the European Union. For example, the deal would allow domestic students to study at European universities at no extra cost.

Monaco life

The National Council has set limits, such as maintaining national priority in all sectors, maintaining restricted access for citizens to state-owned housing, exclusive access for Monegasques to certain regulated professions, prior authorization compulsory for residents and businesses to establish themselves on Monegasque territory, and the maintenance of the declaratory regime for Monegasques.

In a press release published in the summer of 2022, the Monegasque National Council indicated that discussions were continuing “with a view to concluding negotiations on a possible association agreement by the end of 2023”. This is also the wish of the Council of the European Union. Thus, the pace of the negotiations should accelerate with a monthly meeting between the protagonists of the dossier.

If an agreement is reached, Monaco will have the status of “associated state” and will not become a member of the EU. Monaco will remain a third state of the European Union.

A bit of history

The history of the current principality only begins in the XIII century thanks to a Genoese family: the Ghibellines. On 10 June 1215 the Ghibellines laid the foundation stone of the fortress which served as the basis for the current princely palace. To attract inhabitants, the first lords of the “Rocca” granted precious advantages to the new arrivals, such as the granting of land and tax exemption.

In 1297, following a battle won against Genoa by François Grimaldi, known as Malizia, the “lordship of Monaco” was purchased by the Grimaldi family, a wealthy Genoese nobility family.

Grimaldi house

Rainier I, the founder of the Grimaldi dynasty of Monaco, defeated the Dutch at Ziriksee (Netherlands), while serving under the French king Philip the Fair. This feat earned him the title of “Grand Admiral of France” and facilitated the political independence of the small lordship. However, Monaco did not become part of the Grimaldi family until 1419.

In 1489, the King of France, Charles VIII, recognized the independence of Monaco. Later, Louis XII renewed this recognition in 1512, and Francis I in turn in 1515.

In the 17th century, the Grimaldis were made dukes of Valentinois (Drôme) and barons of Massy, ​​titles and lands they lost during the French Revolution of August 4, 1793. The Grimaldis were even expropriated, while the principality was unilaterally annexed to France under the name of Fort-d’Hercule and became the capital of the canton of the Maritime Alps, then a simple French municipality. The Treaty of Vienna of 1815 made the principality a “protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia”.

Independent again

In 1861 Monaco returned to being an independent principality and placed itself under the protection of France. Prince Albert I granted it a constitution in 1911. Since then, the rule of devolution has been that, in the event of the Grimaldi dynasty dying out, France inherits the principality.