Founded in 1215 as a colony of Genoa, Monaco achieved independence in 1419 and has been ruled by the Grimaldi family ever since, with persistent influence by France in its domestic and foreign relations. Its first Constitution was authored in 1911; it formally achieved the status of constitutional monarchy in 1962 with a Constitution that abolished the principle that Grimaldi princes rule by divine rights. The current leader, Prince Rainier III, shares power with a unicameral 18-member National Council that has the right to veto any legislation the prince and his three-member Council of Government devise. The National Council is elected directly by trueborn Monegasque citizens, ages 25 and over. The prince chooses a head of government from a list of French civil servants provided by Paris, but in effect, the prince is both the head of state and government, retaining dual powers assumed by a typical president and prime minister.
Although formal political parties do not exist, political organizations have influenced Monaco's politics. Formed in 1962, the National and Democratic Union (UND) has largely dominated Monaco's elections and has secured all 18 seats in the February 1998 election. Should the prince dissolve the National Council, new elections must be held within three months. The chief justice of the Supreme Court and the head of the Monaco Police are designated by France. As stipulated in a 1918 protection treaty with France, if an heir is not available to take the throne, then the principality reverts to French control.