- In January, Monaco’s parliament adopted two new laws aimed at strengthening the legal framework against money laundering, corruption, and the sponsoring of terrorism.
- In September, Stéphane Valeri, incumbent president of the National Council, announced that he planned to resign his position. After Valeri stepped down in October, he was succeeded by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès, the first woman to hold the office.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
The hereditary monarch holds extensive executive authority, including the exclusive right to change the government, and there are no constitutional provisions allowing citizens to alter this system. The current prince, Albert II, took the throne after his father’s death in 2005. The head of government, known as the minister of state, is traditionally appointed by the monarch from a candidate list of three French nationals submitted by the French government. Pierre Dartout took office as minister of state in 2020.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
The 24 members of the unicameral National Council are elected for five-year terms; the 16 candidates who receive the most votes are elected, and the remaining 8 seats are filled through list-based proportional representation. The 2018 elections were considered credible by international observers. The new political movement Priorité Monaco, led by veteran politician Stéphane Valeri and defectors from the more established Horizon Monaco, won 58 percent of the vote and 21 seats. Horizon Monaco itself took 26 percent and 2 seats, while the Union Monégasque took 16 percent and 1 seat. After the elections, Valeri became president of the National Council, which is regarded as the most powerful elected office in Monaco. Valeri resigned from his position in October 2022 and was succeeded later that month by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès, the first woman to hold the office.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
The legal framework provides an adequate basis for credible elections, and a number of recent changes have improved the conduct of elections, including the modification of campaign finance rules in 2017 and the broadening of suffrage rights for detainees in 2014. However, in a 2018 report, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) argued that the campaign finance system could be further strengthened.
Municipal authorities, led by the mayor of Monaco, form an Electoral Committee that administers elections with support from the Interior Ministry, and observers consider their conduct to be credible. However, technical meetings in preparation for elections are not open to the public, limiting the committee’s transparency.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
Political associations, groupings of people who hold similar political viewpoints, compete in Monaco, rather than traditional parties. There are no undue restrictions on the formation of new political associations. However, office seekers are prohibited from running as individual independent candidates; independents must instead form a list of at least 13 candidates to participate in elections.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
Opposition political associations are able to gain seats in the parliament. In 2018, Priorité Monaco, also known as Primo!, won 21 seats, while Horizon Monaco fell from 20 seats to 2. However, there are structural limits on the ability of political groupings to secure executive power through elections, as the cabinet—appointed by the prince—is not responsible to the elected parliament.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?
The fact that the head of government is a French national appointed from a list submitted by Paris, and that the powerful head of state is an unelected monarch, means that people’s political participation is heavily circumscribed by democratically unaccountable forces. Nevertheless, voters’ and candidates’ choices with respect to parliamentary representation are largely free from domination by such entities.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
Only about 9,000 of Monaco’s residents—roughly a quarter of the total—are citizens, and noncitizens do not have the right to vote or run for office, though a number of legal routes to naturalization are available. Most noncitizen residents are nationals of neighboring France or Italy.
Among the citizen population, women and members of racial or ethnic minority groups are free to participate in elections, both as voters and candidates, but women’s interests are not always well represented in the political system, and only eight women were elected to the parliament in 2018. The six-member council of ministers included two women as of January 2022.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
The hereditary prince has significant governing authority, including the exclusive power to initiate legislation, conduct foreign policy, and approve changes to the constitution. However, all legislation and the budget require parliamentary approval, and the parliament is generally free from interference by unelected groups.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
There have been a series of recent improvements in the legal framework for combating corruption. Rules on accepting gifts and potential conflicts of interest were included in the rules of procedure that took effect in 2021. A 2021 report from the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), a Council of Europe (CoE) anticorruption body, noted that Monégasque authorities had made significant progress in strengthening the country’s ethics framework. The parliament also adopted two new laws aimed at strengthening the legal framework against money laundering, corruption, and the sponsoring of terrorism in January 2022.
Nevertheless, high-level corruption remains a problem, and officials sometimes act with impunity. In 2019, Laurent Anselmi was replaced as justice minister months after he unexpectedly denied a request for a term renewal from the judge overseeing the investigation into the Rybolovlev scandal, a high-profile corruption scandal within the judiciary. However, Anselmi then became foreign minister.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
The law generally provides for public access to government information, including draft laws and proposed legislation. Parliamentarians are bound by the newly implemented rules of procedure and are subject to scrutiny from the ethics adviser, who is empowered to investigate conflict-of-interest and asset-declaration concerns. The rules of procedure also require the publication of legislative committee agendas and written opinions. The 2021 GRECO report also noted that the National Council’s website hosted legislation, proposals, and amendments to enhance public access to such material.
There are no financial disclosure laws in place for lawmakers or officials appointed by the prince.
|Are there free and independent media?
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, and press freedom is generally respected in practice. Monaco has a weekly government newspaper, an English-language monthly, and several online publications. There is one major private broadcaster based in the country. French and Italian broadcast and print media are widely available, and internet access is not restricted.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
Roman Catholicism is the official state religion, but the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and public worship, and this is largely respected in practice. Jehovah’s Witnesses have struggled to secure official recognition as a religious association despite favorable rulings by the Supreme Court.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
There are no undue restrictions on academic freedom.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
People are generally free to express their personal views without fear of retribution. Insulting the ruling family is illegal and can result in prison sentences of up to five years, but the law is infrequently enforced.
|Is there freedom of assembly?
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, which is generally respected in practice.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
No significant restrictions are imposed on the formation or operation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
The law grants workers the right to establish unions and bargain collectively, and antiunion discrimination is prohibited. All workers except government employees have the right to strike. Unions and employers engage in collective bargaining in practice.
|Is there an independent judiciary?
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The prince names five full members and two judicial assistants to the Supreme Court based on nominations by the National Council, government bodies, and the lower courts. The recruitment process for judges lacks transparency, which contributes to a perception that they may lack independence. The Judicial Service Commission (CSJ) is responsible for ensuring the independence of the judiciary. While the CSJ’s autonomy was recently strengthened, only some of its members are selected by their peers. CSJ activity reports are not publicly available. The state secretary for justice, formerly known as the director of judicial services, oversees the judicial and law enforcement systems and is responsible only to the prince. Approximately half of the judges in Monaco are Monégasque nationals, and the other half are French nationals.
Concerns about judicial independence resurfaced in 2019, when the director of judicial services turned down a request for a three-year term renewal from the judge overseeing the investigation into the Rybolovlev corruption scandal. The director was replaced later that year.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
Due process rights are generally respected. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are informed of the charges against them promptly. Defendants have access to attorneys and sufficient time to prepare a defense. A 2021 report by the CoE’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment criticized the relatively poor conditions of the Remand Prison and the size of court waiting cells, though the body reported that prisoners were generally well-treated.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
The population faces no major threats to physical security. Violent crime and excessive use of force by police are both rare in Monaco.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
Monaco lacks a law that broadly prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity, though insults and defamation on such grounds are illegal. In the absence of a comprehensive law, Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is used to prevent and punish discrimination.
The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and women’s rights are generally respected. However, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has noted that women do not enjoy the same rights to social benefits as their male counterparts, as men receive head-of-household status by default, and has called for the establishment of a program guaranteeing the equal treatment of LGBT+ people.
A law passed in June 2021 and gazetted that July provides legal status to non-Monégasques who were born or adopted in Monaco and have since resided in the country. Individuals in the “Children of the Nation” category, who were previously regarded as foreigners, would effectively receive expanded access to housing and employment under this legislation.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
There are no significant restrictions on freedom of internal movement or foreign travel. Temporary movement restrictions that were imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic were generally considered legitimate measures to protect public health.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
Property rights are respected, and noncitizens holding a residence permit may purchase property and establish businesses. However, obtaining government approval to start a business is often a lengthy and complex process, and related costs can be prohibitively expensive.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
Personal social freedoms are generally respected. Abortion remains illegal except under special circumstances, including rape and a risk to the pregnant person’s life or physical health. In 2019, however, the parliament passed legislation that removed criminal punishments for people who undergo abortions; health professionals could still face penalties for performing an abortion in Monaco. Also in 2019, the parliament adopted a law allowing civil partnerships for all couples, including those of the same sex. Domestic violence is outlawed in Monaco, and there are few reported incidents. The government and NGOs provide a network of support services for victims of domestic violence.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
Legal protections against labor exploitation are adequately enforced.
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