Parliament of Tuvalu
|Parliament of Tuvalu|
|Voting system||single-seat constituency|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Constitution of Tuvalu
The Constitution of Tuvalu states that it is “the supreme law of Tuvalu” and that “all other laws shall be interpreted and applied subject to this Constitution”; it sets out the Principles of the Bill of Rights and the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. 
History and political culture
The islands of Tuvalu came under Britain's sphere of influence in the late 19th century, when the Ellice Islands were declared a British protectorate by Captain Gibson R.N., of HMS Curacao, between 9 and 16 October 1892. The Ellice Islands were administered as a British protectorate by a Resident Commissioner from 1892 to 1916 as part of the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT), and from 1916 to 1974 as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.
In 1974, the Ellice Islanders voted for separate British dependency status. As a consequence Tuvalu separated from the Gilbert Islands which became Kiribati. Tuvalu became fully independent within the Commonwealth on 1 October 1978. On 5 September 2000, Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.
The way in which legislation was created changed as Tuvalu evolved from a British protectorate to a British colony and eventually became an independent country:
- British protectorate of Gilbert and Ellice Islands – legislation was promulgated by High Commissioner of the Western Pacific
- British colony of Gilbert and Ellice Islands - legislation was promulgated by the Resident Commissioner (later Governor) of Gilbert and Ellice Islands
- British colony of Tuvalu - legislation was promulgated by the Governor of Tuvalu
- Tuvalu – when it became an independent state and a parliamentary democracy – legislation is enacted by the Parliament of Tuvalu and becomes law following signature by the Governor-General of Tuvalu
From 1974 until independence the parliament of Tuvalu was called the House of the Assembly or Fale I Fono. Following independence in October 1978 the House of the Assembly was renamed the Parliament of Tuvalu or Palamene o Tuvalu.
The constituency of the Parliament is based upon the islands of Tuvalu. The larger islands each elect two members, while Nukulaelae elects one member. The smallest island, Niulakita, is represented in the Parliament of Tuvalu by the members of the constituency of Niutao. A candidate for Parliament must be a citizen of Tuvalu of a minimum age of 21 years. Voting in Tuvalu is not compulsory. At 18 years of age, Tuvaluans are eligible to be added to the electoral rolls. At the date of independence there were 12 members of the Parliament of Tuvalu. The Parliament was increased in 2006 to 15 elected members. Those members select the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the parliament by secret ballot. The ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister to form the cabinet and government of Tuvalu. The Attorney-General sits in Parliament, but does not vote: his parliamentary role is purely advisory.
There are no formal parties in Tuvalu: the political system is based on personal alliances and loyalties derived from clan and family connections.
The Parliament of Tuvalu was first established when Tuvalu separated from the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1975, three years before it gained independence. The first members of the Parliament of Tuvalu were elected in the Tuvaluan general election, 1977. The Parliament of Tuvalu is rare among national legislatures in that it is nonpartisan in nature. It does tend to have both a distinct government and a distinct opposition, but members often cross the floor between the two groups, resulting in a number of mid-term changes of government in recent years, such as the change of government on 24 December 2010, after a motion of no confidence, carried by eight votes to seven, which had the result that the government of Maatia Toafa and his ministers was replaced by a new government led by Willy Telavi.
Universal suffrage exists for those over 18 years of age. The Parliament has 15 members, each of whom serve a four-year term. Each member is elected by popular vote in one of eight island-based constituencies: seven islands elect 2 members each, while Nukulaelae is represented by 1 member. The residents of Niulakita, the smallest island, are included in the electoral roll for Niutao. The Parliament is responsible for nominating the Prime Minister of Tuvalu from among their ranks, who serves as head of the government. The Prime Minister then nominates other members to serve in the governing Cabinet. The members of Parliament also nominate a Speaker of Parliament, who presides over the Parliament.
Any member of Parliament may introduce legislation into Parliament, but in practice, as in most partisan systems, this occurs mainly at the behest of the governing Cabinet. Legislation undergoes first, second and third readings before being presented to the Governor-General of Tuvalu for assent, as in other Westminster systems. One notable variation, however, is that legislation is constitutionally required to be presented to local governments (falekaupules) for review after the first reading; they may then propose amendments through their local member of parliament.
In May 2010, a consultation entitled “Promoting Women in Decision Making” was held in Funafuti, as Parliament at that time had no women MPs. The outcome was a recommendation for the introduction of two new seats, to be reserved for women. This followed the example of Papua New Guinea, which had only one female MP at that time, and whose Parliament was considering a bill to introduce 22 seats reserved for women. The Tuvaluan Ministry for Home Affairs, which has responsibility for women’s affairs, stated that steps would be taken to consider the recommendation.
Throughout the history of the Parliament two women have been elected: Naama Maheu Latasi, from 1989 to 1997; and Pelenike Isaia who was elected in a by-election in the Nui constituency in 2011 that followed the death of her husband Pelenike Isaia, who was a member of parliament and the Minister of Works.
Another notable feature of Tuvalu's Parliamentary life, shared by some other Pacific national parliaments such as that of Nauru, is the frequent recourse to the vote of no confidence, often on some relatively obscure issue, sometimes linked to relations between personalities. The Tuvaluan general election, 2006 marked a noticeable change: 8 of the 15 previous members were defeated, including the entire cabinet of then Prime Minister Maatia Toafa. The government from 2006 to 2010 was headed by Apisai Ielemia as prime minister.
In the Tuvaluan general election, 2010 Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia retained his seat to win re-election from his Vaitupu constituency. In total, ten MPs were re-elected, including Speaker Kamuta Latasi, while five incumbent MPs — including deputy Prime Minister Tavau Teii — lost their seats. The announcement that ten sitting MPs had been re-elected was made by Speaker Kamuta Latasi the following day.
A secret ballot to determine the next prime minister was held on September 29, 2010. Maatia Toafa, who had served as Prime Minister from 2004 to 2006 and the Leader of the Opposition from 2006 to 2010, won the ballot with five new members and three members of the previous government, to become Tuvalu's next prime minister. Toafa narrowly defeated Kausea Natano, who received seven votes in the ballot. Toafa took office on the day of his election and named his Cabinet almost immediately. He included a number of first time MPs who had supported his bid for the premiership - including Enele Sopoaga, who became Minister for Foreign Affairs. Isaia Taeia Italeli, the younger brother of Governor General Iakopa Taeia Italeli, became the Speaker of Parliament.
Nui by-election, 2011
Isaia Italeli, the Minister of Works, 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. Pelenike Isaia supported the Prime Minister Willy Telavi's government. 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
Nukufetau by-election, 2013
Lotoala Metia, the Minister for Finance, died on 21 December 2012. he government delayed the by-election for six months, despite protests from the Opposition. The Opposition commenced legal proceedings in the High Court of Tuvalu; The decision of the Chief Justice Sir Gordon Ward ordered the Prime Minister to issue a notice of elections five days after the judgment, which is delivered in 29 May 2013. The Nukufetau by-election, 2013 was held on 28 June. The Nukufetau by-election was won by the opposition candidate Elisala Pita.
Change of Government in 2013
After the Nukufetau by-election the Opposition demanded that Prime Minister Telavi recall Parliament. A constitutional crisis developed when Prime Minister Telavi responded that, under the Constitution, he was only required to convene Parliament once a year, and was thus under no obligation to summon it until December 2013. Tuvalu's opposition then requested the Governor-General Iakoba Italeli to intervene against the Prime Minister's decision. On 3 July, Italeli exercised his reserve powers in ordering Parliament to convene, against the Prime Minister's wishes, on 30 July.
When the Parliament met on 30 July, the Speaker (Kamuta Latasi) refused to allow a debate on a no-confidence motion in the government of Willy Telavi. After further political maneuvers that included the resignation of Taom Tanukale from Parliament (and thus also from the government), the Governor-General, Iakoba Italeli, then proceeded to exercise his reserve powers to order Telavi to stand down as prime minister and appointed Enele Sopoaga as interim prime minister. The Governor-General also ordered that Parliament sit on Friday 2 August to allow a vote of no-confidence in Telavi and his government. Telavi then proceeding to write to Queen Elizabeth II (as the head of state of Tuvalu) informing her that he was dismissing Italeli from his position as Governor-General.
On 2 August 2013 Willy Tevali faced a motion of no confidence in the Parliament: the voting was eight for the motion, four against and one abstention. On 4 August the Parliament elected Enele Sopoaga as Prime Minister.  The cabinet that was sworn in on 5 August included Vete Sakaio as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Utilities, Maatia Toafa as the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and Taukelina Finikaso as the Foreign Minister.
Nui by-election, 2013
The Nui by-election was held on 10 September 2013. Leneuoti Maatusi was declared the winner, polling 297 of the 778 registered voters. Matusi has been a civil servant and served as the Secretary of the Nui Falekaupule. He beat Palemene Anelu, a recent graduate of the University of the South Pacific, who received 206 votes and Taom Tanukale, the sitting member, whose resignation from Parliament caused the by-election, who received 160 votes. After the by-election Leneuoti Maatusi committed to support Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.
The government of Enele Sopoaga had a majority of two prior to the Nui by-election, 2013. Leneuoti Maatusi, elected in the Nui by-election, 2013, committed to support Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. Falesa Pitoi, who supports the opposition, has been unable to attend Parliament. Following an assessment of Dr Pitoi’s health the Governor-General declared a vacancy for the constituency of Nanumaga, which will be filled in a by-election.
Current Members of Parliament
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- Politics of Tuvalu
- Prime Minister of Tuvalu
- List of Tuvalu MPs
- List of Speakers of the Parliament of Tuvalu
- Governor-General of Tuvalu
- List of legislatures by country