Politics of Tuvalu

Politics of Tuvalu

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The politics of Tuvalu takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, whereby the Monarch is the head of state, represented by the Governor-General, while the Prime Minister is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Tuvalu is a non-partisan democracy, and elections in Tuvalu take place without reference to formal political parties.


Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Queen Elizabeth II 6 February 1952
Governor-General Iakoba Italeli 16 April 2010
Prime Minister Willy Telavi Independent 24 December 2010

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 of Tuvalu. 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.

Judicial branch

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.

Legislative branch

The legislative branch is the unicameral Parliament of Tuvalu, also called the House of Assembly or Fale I Fono. It has fifteen seats; members are elected to serve four-year terms.

Democratic values in Tuvalu

Democratic values in Tuvalu are strong with free elections every 4 years by universal adult suffrage. There are no formal political parties so all candidates are non-partisan,[1] and election campaigns are largely on the basis of personal/family ties and reputation. Tuvalu has "about 6,000 eligible voters" - a little over half the country's population.[2][3]

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.

Tuvalu does not face serious governance issues. The frequent use of the parliamentary vote of no confidence, engendering many changes of government in relatively short periods, has sometimes been on issues which reflect on the relations between personalities rather than on pressing national issues.

After the death of prime minister Ionatana in late-2000, Tuvalu had four prime ministers in 4 years. This in part reflects the pressures affecting the small nation, including the transition from an exchange economy to a currency-based economy, an inherited system of government with only limited regard to Tuvaluan traditions of decision making.

Te Kakeega II is the statement of the national strategy for the sustainable development of Tuvalu, with goals intended to be achieved in the period 2005 to 2015.[4] After consultations on each islands the National Summit on Sustainable Development (NSSD), was held at the Tausoalima Falekaupule in Funafuti from 28 June to 9 July 2004.[5] The meeting resulted in the Malefatuga Declaration,[6] which is the foundation of Te Kakeega II.[4]

Political parties and elections

After the death of prime minister Ionatana in late-2000, Faimalaga Luka became the prime minister until he was replaced by [Koloa Talake]] after a vote of no confidence in 2001.

Following the elections held in July 2002 six of the 15 members elected to Parliament were serving for the first time. Saufatu Sopoanga, a former civil servant, became prime minister in August 2002. It was expected that Tuvalu would have a period of political stability. However, Sapoanga was removed from office after two years and deputy prime minister Maatia Toafa became prime minister in 2004.

Apisai Ielemia became prime minister following the Tuvaluan general election, 2006 that was held on 3 August 2006. Many of the incumbent government ministers under the previous government of Maatia Toafa lost their reelection bids for the Tuvaluan Parliament.

The Tuvaluan general election, 2010 is the most recent election. Parliament was dissolved on 13 August 2010, and registration began on 28 August 2010.[7] Twenty-six candidates, including all sitting Members of Parliament, stood for the fifteen seats in Parliament.[8] In total, ten MPs were re-elected, while five incumbent MPs lost their seats.[9]

Approximately one and a half weeks after the 2010 general election, a secret ballot was held on 29 September 2010 to determine the country's next prime minister. Incumbent prime minister Apisai Ielemia was not returned to a second term. Maatia Toafa won the ballot with eight votes to become Tuvalu's next prime minister. Toafa narrowly defeated Kausea Natano, who received the votes of seven MPs in the ballot. The election results were announced by Governor-General Iakoba Italeli and Toafa took office the same day.

On 24 December 2010, after a motion of no confidence, carried by eight votes to seven, Maatia Toafa was replaced by Willy Telavi as Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

Minister of Works Isaia Italeli died suddenly in July 2011, which led to a by-election in the Nui constituency the following month. The election was won by his widow, Pelenike Isaia, who became only the second woman ever to have sat in the Tuvaluan Parliament. The by-election was described as "pivotal", as Italeli's death had deprived Prime Minister Willy Telavi of his government's one seat majority in Parliament. Pelenike Isaia's election restored it, strengthening the government.[10] [11]


Tuvalu has no regular military forces, and spends no money on the military. Its police force includes a Maritime Surveillance Unit for search and rescue missions and surveillance operations. The police have a Pacific class patrol boat (Te Mataili) provided by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Pacific Patrol Boat Program for use in maritime surveillance and fishery patrol.


  1. ^ Matau, Robert (2010). "Politics: Changing Leadership?". Islands Business. http://www.islandsbusiness.com/islands_business/index_dynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=19316/overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl?PHPSESSID=c6196675b6777193bc96ea7442cc80d8. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  2. ^ "Tuvalu goes to the polls", Agence France Presse, 16 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Tuvalu completes voting in national elections", Radio Australia, 16 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Te Kakeega II - National Strategies for Sustainable Development 2005-2015". Government of Tuvalu. 2005. http://www.sprep.org/att/IRC/eCOPIES/Countries/Tuvalu/42.pdf. Retrieved 14 Oct. 2011. 
  5. ^ Tausoalima means “hand of friendship” and Falekaupule, means traditional island meeting hall.
  6. ^ Malefatuga is the area bounded by the Funafuti lagoon foreshore and the Fetu Ao Lima Church (“Morning Star”), where the Tausoalima is located. The old meaning of malefatuga is “challenge”, the place where conflicts were resolved. Its modern usage is “place of identity and confidence, where good deeds are recorded”.
  7. ^ "Tuvalu Parliament to be dissolved tomorrow ahead of elections in five weeks". Radio New Zealand International. 12 August 2010. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=55268. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  8. ^ "Tuvalu gears up for parliamentary elections". Radio New Zealand International. 15 September 2010. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=55879. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "Tuvalu PM, speaker retain seats as deputy PM crashes out". Radio Australia. 17 September 2010. http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201009/s3014232.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  10. ^ "Samoa police rule out foul play in death of Tuvalu minister". Radio New Zealand International. 21 July 2011. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=61940. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Tuvalu Government set to retain power", Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 24 August 2011

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