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- Dubai 03:59 05:25 12:21 15:42 19:12 20:38
Its billionaire residents might not pay a blind bit of attention, but on Sunday, Monaco goes to the polls to elect a new parliament.
Over 50 years after its royal dynasty, the Grimaldi family, made world headlines when Prince Rainier III married American film goddess Grace Kelly, the principality still has far more than its fair share of glamour thanks to its casino, star- and Michelin star-studded restaurants, Formula One Grand Prix and European football's annual curtain-raiser.
So much so that only a tiny proportion of Monaco's population –bona-fide Monegasques – are actually eligible to vote.
From a global roll-call of some 32,000 individuals whose bank statements qualify them for income tax-free status, just 6,324 will get to mark their crosses on ballot papers for the principality's 24-seat national assembly.
Three parties – the political kind, that is – are on Sunday's list: The Union for Monaco (UPM), the incumbent majority led by Stephane Valeri; an alliance of old and new conservative groupings, known as the REM; and a national movement advocating greater "ethics" in managing the affairs of the world's second-smallest state.
Unlike other European monarchies, Prince Albert exercises full power, nominating a Minister of State to represent him -- usually a high-ranking French civil servant. He in turn leads a five-member Council of Government running Monaco under royal authority.
The reality of five-yearly legislative elections invariably involves trying to cast your opponents as movie baddies, which in day-to-day Monaco life means being opposed to the prince's priorities.
Valeri has been accused by an REM official, for instance, of wanting to be top dog and surreptitiously legislating for a parliamentary system which would limit the prince's authority.
"This uncontrollable character wants to blow up the regime and its pillars," Laurent Nouvion was quoted as saying in Nice-Matin, the French daily based just a short helicopter taxi-ride away.
Albert is "Prince of Monaco, not of Monegasques," underlines one French analyst.
Which captures perfectly the real recurring political debate, with laws giving preferential employment rights to native Monegasques often circumvented – leaving locals with the civil service or the company which controls the gaming monopoly as their likeliest sources of revenue.
The territory occupies just under two square kilometres (0.75 sq mile) of the Cote d'Azur.
A major banking centre, Monaco guards closely the privacy of its clients, but it has also been the focus of French concerns about its tax policy and has been accused of tolerating money-laundering – claims it strongly denies. (AFP)
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