Government of Tuvalu

Basic Information and Electoral History

Members of Parliament
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The British monarch is the titular head of state and represented by a Tuvaluan governor general. The Governor General's functions are largely ceremonial and he is appointed on the advice of the prime minister in consultation with Parliament. In 1991, Parliament approved a study of the possibility of making Tuvalu a republic, which would bring to an ending the Queen's status as head of state. Currently, effective executive power rests in the cabinet which consists of the Prime Minister, who is elected by Parliament from among its members, and not more than five ministers, who are members of Parliament selected by the prime minister. The cabinet is collectively responsible to Parliament for its actions.

The unicameral Parliament, called Fale i Fono in Tuvaluan, has the power to make laws and consists of fifteen elected members. Seven islands send two members each, and one, Nukulaelae, with the smallest population, sends one member. Elections are by universal suffrage of all citizens over eighteen years of age. Parliament is presided over by a speaker elected by the members from their own ranks. Parliament can remove the prime minister from office by passing a no-confidence vote. Elections are held every four years, or sooner if Parliament is dissolved by the governor general in accordance with the constitution.

The court system consists of the sovereign in council, court of Appeal and the High Court, which are courts of general trial and appellate jurisdiction, and the Magistrates' Courts, Island Courts, and Land Courts which are lower courts with limited jurisdiction. As declared by the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987, there are five sources of law in Tuvalu; the constitution, acts of Parliament, customary law, applied laws, and the common law. In addition, international law also applies in Tuvalu. A chief justice visits twice a year to preside over sessions of the High Court.

Local government consists of a Town Council on the main island of Funafuti and Island Councils, first established in 1965, on seven other islands. Each council provides local services and consists of six elected members, one of whom acts as president.

Tuvalu is politically stable and politics are relatively low-key. There are no real political parties. However, after independence in 1978, members of Parliament had tended to align themselves with either Sir Toaripi Lauti, Tuvalu's first Prime Minister, or Dr. Tomasi Puapua, who served as Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989. In 1989, Dr. Puapua lost the election to Bikenibeu Paeniu, a political new-comer who won the seat of his home island Funafuti, in an earlier by-election prior to contesting for the Prime Ministership. Following two elections in 1993 made necessary due to an earlier Parliamentary deadlock, Kamuta Latasi became Tuvalu's new Prime Minister narrowly defeating incumbent Paeniu.

Parliament voted for a new Prime Minister 26 April 1999. Long-time Tuvaluan parliamentarian Ionatana Ionatana was was elected. Bikenibeu Paeniu, the former Prime Minister, was forced out of office on April 13 by a vote of no confidence, but did continue to head the caretaker government and the election took place. Ionatana subsequently shuffled the cabinet.

In December, 2000, Ionatana died of heart failure while in office, and Faimalaga Luka was subsequently elected as Prime Minister by the parliament members. In December 2001, a vote of no confidence ousted Luka, and Koloa Talake was elected.

Constitution of Tuvalu (large file)

Photographs of Tuvalu's Government Building


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Tuvalu at the United Nations  



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