Two Mediterranean previews

Two countries in Mediterranean Europe go to the polls on Sunday, but that’s not the only thing that they have in common. They are two of the only three European countries (Switzerland is the third) to have a complete separation of powers between legislature and executive.

Cyprus is the larger and more familiar-looking one. It has a presidential system, and on Sunday it votes for a new president: centre-right incumbent Nicos Anastasiades, in office since 2013, is prevented by term limits from running again. You can read about the background in my preview of his initial victory and my report on his 2018 re-election.

Since then there’s been a legislative election held in May 2021, in which the president’s party, Democratic Rally, returned the largest contingent with 17 seats. The Communist party, AKEL, won 15, the Democratic Party (centrist/nationalist) won nine, and another four parties shared the remaining 15.

The same three main parties are running for the presidency. According to the polls, the front-runner is Nikos Christodoulides from the Democratic Party, a former foreign minister; he is up to ten points ahead of Democratic Rally’s Averof Neofytou and AKEL’s Andreas Mavroyiannis, who are neck-and-neck for second place. Of the other 11 candidates, only the extreme right’s Christos Christou has any appreciable support, and he is well back in single figures.

Assuming no-one wins a majority on Sunday, a second round will be held a week later. Christodoulides will be heavily favored, since he is in the middle ideologically and should pick up support from whichever of the others is eliminated. That will mean, however, a more nationalist or anti-Turkish approach, since both the centre-right and the Communists tend to be more moderate on that score than the Democratic Party and its allies.

Monaco, on the other hand, is having a parliamentary election. There is no president; the head of the executive is the reigning prince, Albert II, who appoints a prime minister, currently (since 2020) Pierre Dartout. The prime minister is not responsible to parliament: he is in fact a French civil servant and is appointed in consultation with the French government.

Parliament (known as the National Council) consists of 24 members, of which two-thirds are elected by first-past-the-post block voting. At the last election, in 2018 (see my preview here), a new party, Priority Monaco (Primo!), won a landslide with 57.7% of the vote and 21 seats. The previous majority party, Horizon Monaco, was reduced to two seats, with the final one going to the Monegasque Union.

Primo!’s leader, Stéphane Valeri, became speaker, and when he retired last year he was succeeded by Brigitte Boccone-Pagès – the first woman to hold the job. For this election, however, all three parties have united in a single ticket, called the Monegasque National Union. It is being challenged by another new party, New Ideas for Monaco (which conveniently gives the same acronym in French as in English, NIM).

Monaco is very small (a bit smaller than North Fitzroy, where I live); there’s only one polling place, and last time just over five thousand people voted. There’s no sign of any opinion polling, but the polls close at 5am Monday, eastern Australian time, so results shouldn’t take long to appear – try the official website here.


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