Monaco goes to the polls: explore the principality's unique political system
The second smallest state in the world, after the Vatican, Monaco is a hereditary and constitutional monarchy. The Monegasques are going to vote this Sunday 5 February 2023, to renew their Parliament called the National Council.
What is the National Council?
In Monaco, legislative power is jointly exercised by Prince Albert II and the National Council.
Also called the Monegasque Assembly, it is the unicameral parliament of the Principality. It is composed of 24 members elected for 5 years by universal suffrage. It is therefore the main representative body of the population. It votes on laws proposed by the government.
It is currently chaired by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès.
Of the 38,000 or so inhabitants of this tiny Principality of 2.02 km², which is landlocked between Nice and Italy, but which is not a member 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 conducted?
The National Council is elected according to a mixed one-round ballot which gives 16 seats to the majority list, the remaining 8 seats are distributed proportionally between the lists that have obtained more than 5% of the votes, and voters have the possibility of making a mixture.
What is at stake?
Although these councillors vote on laws and the budget, they cannot question the political responsibility of the government and, if necessary, overthrow it, as the latter is only responsible to Albert II, the Sovereign Prince.
According to Thierry Brezzo of the "Monegasque National Union" list, the major issues at stake in this next term of office are :
the signature of a possible association agreement with the European Union;
the preservation of the Monegasque model and specificities: "If the priority for hiring, housing, the conditions of access to public contracts or to certain regulated professions are not preserved, it is the whole 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 favourite, the "Monegasque National Union" and its 13 outgoing deputies, led by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès, a 63-year-old former teacher, the first woman to be elected President of the National Council since its creation in 1911.
Opposite, "New Ideas for Monaco", led by the current dean of the Council, Daniel Boéri, 78, a former member of the majority.
With only 14 candidates, Mr Boéri admits that he had "difficulty" in putting together his list, due to "fantastic pressure". But he hopes to distinguish himself by "the vision" proposed, even if, between these two lists, "we cannot say that there are ideological distinctions, but rather philosophical ones".
"New Ideas for Monaco" intends to "launch debates, particularly on women's rights and on how to go further on abortion within the framework of the Constitution". Although voluntary interruption of pregnancy was decriminalised in Monaco in 2019 and women undergoing an abortion no longer risk prison, performing an abortion is still prohibited.
Mr Boéri also called on the Monegasque government to systematically assess "the ecological impact of decisions taken".
What is the link between Monaco and Europe?
Like Andorra and San Marino, Monaco has been conducting negotiations with the European Union since March 2015 to sign an association agreement. The aim is to make life easier for its citizens and companies within the European internal market. The major challenge is to increase the economic attractiveness of Monaco.
This would, for example, remove the obstacles encountered by Monegasque economic agents to access the European internal market. This would guarantee greater legal security in their exchanges. According to the Monegasque government, an agreement would also allow nationals to move around the European Union more easily. For example, the agreement would allow national students to study at European universities without additional costs.
The National Council has set limits, such as maintaining national priority in all areas, maintaining reserved access for nationals to state-owned housing, exclusive access for Monegasques to certain regulated professions, compulsory prior authorisation for residents and companies to set up on Monegasque territory, and maintaining 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 finalising 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 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 to the European Union.
A little history
The history of the present principality only began in the 13th 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 present princely palace. In order to attract inhabitants, the first lords of the "Rock" granted valuable advantages to the newcomers, such as the granting of land and tax exemption.
In 1297, following a battle won against Genoa by François Grimaldi, known as Malizia, the "seigneury of Monaco" was acquired by the house of Grimaldi, a wealthy family of Genoese nobility.
House of Grimaldi
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 seigneury. However, Monaco did not become part of the Grimaldi family until 1419.
In 1489, the King of France, Charles VIII, recognised 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 which they lost during the French Revolution on 4 August 1793. The Grimaldis were even dispossessed, while the principality was unilaterally annexed by France under the name of Fort-d'Hercule and became the chief town of the Alpes-Maritimes canton, then a simple French commune. The Treaty of Vienna in 1815 made the principality a "protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia".
In 1861, Monaco became an independent principality again 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 extinction of the Grimaldi dynasty, France inherits the principality.