By Félicitas Guillot (IE-EI, Nice)
Monegasque national elections took place on the 11th of February. The election campaign started quite early, in July 2017, with the announcement of Jean-Louis Grinda as chief candidate for « l’Union Monegasque » (Monegasque Union, center). The second chief candidate was Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo for Horizon Monaco (center-right), declared in September 2017. She is the first woman chief candidate at the national level. The third one was Stéphane Valeri for Primo ! (Priority Monaco !, center-left). – His party won twenty one out of twenty four seats in the National Council and he has been newly elected as President. To understand the stake of these elections, it is important to have an insight into the context.
In Monaco, legislative power is jointly exercised by the Prince and the Monegasque Parliament, the National Council (« Conseil National »), an unicameral assembly. The latter is composed of twenty four members, elected by universal and direct suffrage for a period of five years. The election consists of a one round mixed system : plurinominal ballot by majority vote and proportional representation. Monegasque citizens, aged at least 18 years and not deprived of their civil rights by court ruling, have the right to vote. Monegasque nationals for at least five years, aged at least 25 years, with no constraint on eligibility and not deprived of their civil rights by court ruling, are eligible for election. Vote-splitting is allowed. Proxy vote for the electors living abroad and for those who can not go to the polling station for medical reasons or professional imperatives is now possible since a law enacted on the 10 October 2006. Since 2007 (law of 20 June 2007) international observers are allowed to be present in the polling station during the elections in order to demonstrate that the democratic act takes place in total transparency. The mandate of National Counsellor is not compatible with the functions of member of the Princely House and of Government Counsellor-Minister. The National Counsellors have the possibility to resign from their mandate. Each year, the National Council elects its President and Vice-President, as well as the Committees (for example External Relations Committee) and delegation members. The Prince has the power to dissolve the National Council after having requested the Crown Council’s (an advisory committee) opinion. The latter is not binding.
The National Council votes on the State Budget (preliminary and amending) and approves treaties and international agreements ratification. The National Council also votes on the bills. It pronounces itself for or against a « legislative » bill proposal or a « government » bill. It can suggests amendments that have a direct link with the terms of the bill. Since the constitutional revision of 2002, the Government has six months to decide whether it will transform the proposal into a « government » bill or it will interrupt the legislative process. The Constitution can be amended by mutual agreement between the Prince and the National Council. The Prince communicates with the National Council through messages read by the Minister of State (Prime Minister).
The Monegasque political movements differ from parties of the nearby countries. These are associations, in the sense of civil law, gathered around general themes. They differ more by the respective sensibility of their leaders and their members than by partisan ideologies.
Generally, these movements and later « parties » are near the centre of politics. Some extremes developed after Second World War (Nationalists) and in the 60s (Communist, Charles Soccal). Politics are mainly based on consensus, like in most small countries. It is historical ; the consensus politics is to avoid big states, surrounding them, being tempted to interfere in their local affairs. The Monegasque consensus is based on a common will to reach an agreement in the general interest and a desire to confront ideas, but no ideologies (big village). That is why, in Monaco, there are no real cleavages. Voters and Candidates are more like a big family.
Monaco’s challenges from past to future
From the « threatening » presence of large neighbours till more recent challenges caused by the European integration, Monaco has successfully managed its independence and its modernization.
The Monegasque political life was essentially dominated, until 1962, by the pursuit of a more liberal Constitution. Nevertheless, from the 1950s, other thoughts, such as those on the extension of the territory at sea and the economic development, emerged. Further to new tensions with France at the end of 1990s, the Principality aspired to greater independence with regard to its larger neighbour and, in particular, initiates the process of membership to the Council of Europe. This process had, naturally, an impact on institutions, as well at the national level as at the municipal level.
By means of the constitutional revision of 2002, changes took place to be in conformity with the recommendations emitted in the reports of the Council of Europe. It allowed in particular to extend the participation of the National Council in the field of the foreign policy. The number of National Counsellors was increased from eighteen to twenty four. Besides, it put into a legal form the budgetary autonomy of the Municipality.
Modification of the voting system
The modification of the voting system, by means of the Law of April 9th, 2002, concerns exclusively the national elections. It consists of combining the previous election system, majority voting (plurinominal, with possibility of mixing and without preferential vote) for two thirds of the seats – thirteen – and a proportional representation for the last third – eight seats. These measures impose the constitution of lists containing a number of candidates equal or greater to the value of the absolute majority, being thirteen members (individuals can’t now present themselves any longer for election). This inclusion of proportionality leaves some space to the representatives of the other lists in the National Council. Nevertheless, it is a mixed voting system with very strong majority effect. The distribution of seats applies to all the lists and on the basis of the rule of the strongest average, favourable to the big parties. In reality, the winning list can hope to take away not sixteen, but twenty one seats.
Financing of election campaigns
As for the financing of election campaigns, further to a report of Greco (Group of States against the Corruption), a law of July 2nd, 2012 provided Monaco with clear rules on campaign expenses. Since this law, expenses are limited to 400.000 Euros, with a refund by the State of the campaign expenses to a value of 80.000 Euros. Before this law, there was no spending limit and the refund was limited to 27.500 Euros. The future candidates will have to appoint a financial representative, who will be asked to list in a precise and daily way all the expenses linked to the election campaign. An independent commission of Audit shall control these documents. In case of error or fraud, the penalties are very severe, from administrative to penal sanction. In case of the union of two lists, there will be obligation to declare in common all the realized expenses, including the expenses from before the alliance. Naturally, the total amount spent, must not exceed 400.000 Euros. Thus, certain alliances will be impossible to realize.
As for the financial resources, texts are, for the moment, non-existent. According to the political movements the campaigns are financed by the members, through their contributions, by the candidates, from their « participation », and by the sponsors, via their donations.
Elections since the modification of the voting system (2002)
The first national elections after these modifications, those of 2003, marked a big change concerning the Monegasque political life. The opposition, the UPM (Union For Monaco, center-left), was elected with twenty one seats and ended the « reign » of the Democratic National Union (UND, center-right), in position since 1963. The new political leader, Stéphane Valeri, introduced a partisan politics. It was also the beginning of a « professionalization » of the political life. First satisfaction questionnaires were born, the Monegasque political movements increased their presence on the Internet, the political meetings are equipped with more successful tools, the pre- and post-election communication occupy an increasingly important place.
In 2008, l’UPM won again with twenty one seats. Three seats will be occupied by Rassemblement et Enjeux pour Monaco’ (REM), successor of the Democratic National Union. The third « parti », an union of three independent movements (PFM, Synergie Monégasque and « Non inscrits Monégasques ») with well-known political personalities as R. Giordano, C. Boisson and D. Boeri who have paid the price through the modification of the voting system. They didn’t get any seat in the National Council.
Three « parties » were represented after the elections of February 10th, 2013 : Horizon Monaco (successor of REM), Monagasque Union (successor of UPM), Renaissance.. The presence of this last movement is particularly interesting, because it represents exclusively the interests of the SBM (Société des Bains de Mers);(1) it is considered as a corporatist movement. Horizon Monaco won the elections with twenty seats. Its leader Laurent Nouvion was elected as President. The opposition, Union Monégasque won three seats and Renaissance one.
Other change and the first one, the President of the National Council, Laurent Nouvion, was not re-elected by his peers during the vote on April 27th, 2016. During the latest election campaign a politician called this a putsch. It was an important sign of the weakening and disintegration of Horizon Monaco.
National elections of 2018
In February 2018 we will find again three « parties », but not exactly the same ones. Horizon Monaco (center-right) has a new chief candidate, Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo, like l’Union Monégasque (UM, center) with Jean-Louis Grinda. Renaissance, the former third list, joined l’UM. The actual third list, Primo ! (Priority Monaco, center-left), is a new political movement with a well-known chief candidate, Stéphane Valeri. He was the old leader of l’UPM and President of the National Council from 2003 – 2010. From 2010 till 2017 he was Government Counsellor-Minister for social affairs and health. He resigned from the Government last year and went back to politics. From the beginning of the campaign he was designed as the winner and indeed his list took twenty one seats. He has been elected as President by his peers on February 22nd. The leaders of the two other movements each gained one seat (B. Fresko-Rolfo and J.-L. Grinda). Horizon Monaco obtained a second seat (J. Rit).
During the elections of 2018, the main general themes were housing and the preservation of national individuality. The latter theme is, of course, very important for Monaco. The Monegasque community constitutes a minority in their own country (9.160 on 37.308). This explains why the non Monegasques don’t have the right of vote and why the Monegasques have privileges, in particular with respect to housing and jobs. Concerning housing, the prices of apartments are so high that some Monegasque families can’t afford to live in Monaco ! That’s why they have a special rate on state-owned properties. The problem is that demand exceeds supply. It also explains why the negotiations with the European Union raise questions. In this context, the direct and indirect references to the political history and the emphasis of the protection of national particularities gave a competitive advantage to Primo ! and its leader, Stéphane Valeri.
General evolution of political life
The general evolution of the Monegasque political life is linked to the growing influence of its opening to the world. The political life is indeed more inspired by its big neighbours, but nevertheless it stays unique. That’s how, during these elections, on one hand, there are a lot of first times occurances : a woman chief candidate, a public debate between political leaders, a lot of young candidates, a call for professionalization of the status of elected representatives (especially the one of the President), a call for change of the electoral law (increasing of proportional representation).(2) On the other hand, there are a lot of references to the political history of Monaco : the role of the National Council (it shouldn’t be just a simple Assembly of recording), the support of direct descendants of two very important political leaders of the past (L. Aureglia, J.-C. Rey) to Primo !, the presence of a descendant of a politically active family (F. Notari) on the list Primo ! and the reference to its particularities as mentioned above.
This insight into the Monegasque political life concludes on the importance of maintaining their National particularities. It is essential for their survival in a world that continues to change very quickly. In order to allow that the specificities of the community are maintained in a suitable environment, the Principality always has been able to adapt itself to the challenges that appear, either by anticipating or by countering them. This reactivity becomes a priority in a world whose future is more uncertain than ever and in which threats ignore borders.
Indeed, when confronted with major crises, such as environmental ones, that are waiting for us in this XXIth century, there is not or little place for a politics of fundamental opposition. We slide imperceptibly towards a consensual politics based on internal and international management of the major questions. In that respect, the Principality constitutes, in a way, a laboratory that allows us to perceive, on a small scale, possible answers to the likely questions of tomorrow on a larger scale.
Notes: (1) The SBM manages numerous assets in the luxury hotel business and the leisure activities. It is one of the main employers for Monegasque citizens.
(2) The three lists together (72 candidates) represent around one percent of the registered voters (7.245). It explains the difficulty in presenting three complete lists.