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Monaco's old order toppled in vote

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

MONACO -- The opposition party upset the old order with a sweep in Monaco's weekend elections -- proof that politics exist in this tiny principality best known as a playground for the rich.

The Union for Monaco, led by Stephane Valeri, won 21 of the 24 seats in the National Council -- monopolized for more than three decades by a party representing mainly old Monegasque families.

The change of hands in the National Council, the equivalent of a parliament, marked a turning point for this Mediterranean enclave where tradition is as solid as the Riviera rock on which it sits.

"Monegasques have opted for modernization," Valeri said.

Monaco, smaller than New York's Central Park, brings to mind sumptuous casinos, luxury yachts and tax breaks. But, for a brief period at least, it became a hotbed of political debate that climaxed with Sunday's vote.

Some 80 percent of the 5,800 eligible voters cast ballots to choose their representatives for the next five years, according to election officials.

The National Council does not initiate legislation, but votes on bills proposed by Prince Rainier III, Monaco's ruler of 53 years.

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