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Politics of Tuvalu


Queen Elizabeth II as the Queen of Tuvalu, is the head of state, represented by the Governor General, who is appointed by the Queen on advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is elected by the members of the Parliament. The Cabinet is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The legislative branch is a unicameral Parliament also called House of Assembly (15 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve 4-year terms.

Tuvalu maintains an independent judiciary consisting of a High Court and eight islands courts. The rulings of the High Court can be appealed to the Fiji Court of Appeal.

Political conditions

Democratic values in Tuvalu are strong with free elections every 4 years by universal adult suffrage. Tuvalu does not face serious governance issues. There are no formal political parties in this country of only 11,000 people; election campaigns are largely on the basis of personal/family ties and reputation.

Members of Parliament have very close ties to the island they represent. Often the northern islands in the country compete against the southern islands with the center holding the balance of power. Traditional chiefs also still play a significant role in influencing island affairs, particularly on the outer islands. A long-held distinction between chiefs and commoners is slowly disappearing, and chiefs are now more often selected on merit rather than by birth.

Beginning with the death of Prime Minister Ionatana in late-2000, Tuvaulu has had four prime ministers in 2 years. This in part reflects the pressures affecting the small nation, including the transition from an exchange economy to a money economy, an inherited system of government with only limited regard to Tuvaluan traditions of decision making, the lack of clear path to implement Tuvalu's vision for the future.

Elections held in July 2002 were, as is the norm in Tuvalu, free and fair. Six of the 15 members elected to Parliament are serving for the first time. Saufatu Sopoanga, a former civil servant, became Prime Minister in August 2002. He replaced Koloa Talake, who had replaced Faimalaga Luka after a vote of no confidence in 2001. It is expected that Tuvalu will now have a period of political stability.

Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Tuvalu
former: Ellice Islands

Data code: TV

Government type: constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy; began debating republic status in 1992

Capital: Funafuti

Administrative divisions: none

Independence: 1 October 1978 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 1 October (1978)

Constitution: 1 October 1978

Legal system: NA

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Principal Government Officials
Head of the State (Governor General)--Faimalaga Luka
Head of the Government (Prime Minister)--Saufatu Sopoanga (also Minister of Foreign Affairs)
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of Parliament

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (12 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)

Judicial branch: eight Island Courts; High Court; note - a chief justice visits twice a year to preside over sessions of the High Court

Political parties and leaders: there are no political parties but members of Parliament usually align themselves in informal groupings

International organization participation: ACP, AsDB, C (special), ESCAP, IFRCS (associate), Intelsat (nonsignatory user), ITU, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WTrO (applicant)

Flag description: light blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant; the outer half of the flag represents a map of the country with nine yellow five-pointed stars symbolizing the nine islands