Politics of Tuvalu

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Main article: Tuvalu

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.

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.[1][2]

Tuvalu follows the Westminster system of representative democracy although Tuvalu is a non-partisan democracy and elections in Tuvalu take place without reference to formal political parties.

Throughout the history of the Parliament of Tuvalu two women have been elected: Naama Maheu Latasi, from 1989 to 1997;[3] and Pelenike Isaia who was elected in a by-election in the Nui constituency in 2011 that followed the death of her husband, Isaia Italeli, who was a member of parliament and the Minister of Works.[4]

Tuvaluans participated in the political institutions of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony during the transition to self-determination. A referendum was held in December 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration.[5] As a consequence of the Ellice Islands self-determination referendum, 1974 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence.[6]

In 2008 Tuvaluans rejected a constitutional referendum that proposed replacing the Queen of Tuvalu, with an elected president as the head of state.

Executive branch[edit]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Monarch Queen Elizabeth II N/A 1 October 1978
Governor-General Iakoba Italeli 16 April 2010
Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga Independent 1 August 2013

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 of Tuvalu. The Prime Minister is elected by the members of the Parliament. The members also elect the Speaker of the Parliament of Tuvalu who is the presiding officer of the parliament. The Ministers that form the Cabinet are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.[7] The Attorney-General sits in Parliament, but does not vote: the parliamentary role of the Attorney-General is purely advisory.[7] The current Attorney-General is Eselealofa Apinelu.[8]

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, by tradition, is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Office of the Prime Minister supports the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and also has responsibility for the public service, the police, immigration, broadcasting and media. Tuvalu has the following ministries:[9]

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture
  • Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Commerce
  • Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning
  • Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development
  • Ministry of Local Government, Women and Youth
  • Ministry of Works Communications and Transport
  • Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment

Judicial branch[edit]

Tuvalu maintains an independent judiciary consisting of a High Court, Magistrates Court on Funafuti and Island Courts and Lands Courts on each island. Appeals in relation to land disputes are made to the Lands Courts Appeal Panel. Appeals from the Island Courts and the Lands Courts Appeal Panel are made to the Magistrates Court, which has jurisdiction to hear civil cases involving up to $10,000. The superior court is the High Court of Tuvalu as it has unlimited original jurisdiction and hears appeals from the lower courts. Sir Gordon Ward is the current Chief Justice of Tuvalu.[10] Rulings of the High Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu. From the Court of Appeal there is a right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council, i.e., the Privy Council in London.[11][12]

The law of Tuvalu comprises the Acts voted into law by the Parliament of Tuvalu and statutory instruments that become law; certain Acts passed by the Parliament of England (during the time Tuvalu was either a British protectorate of British colony); the common law; and customary law (particularly in relation to the ownership of land).[11][12]

Legislative branch[edit]

The legislative branch is the unicameral Parliament of Tuvalu or Palamene o Tuvalu has 15 members, elected for a four year term in 7 double- and 1 single-seat constituencies. During the time that Tuvalu was a British Dependency the parliament was called the House of Assembly or Fale I Fono.[3]

Democratic values in Tuvalu[edit]

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,[7] 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.[13][14]

Throughout the history of the parliament two women have been elected: Naama Maheu Latasi, from 1989 to 1997;[3] and Pelenike Isaia who was elected in a by-election in the Nui constituency in 2011 that followed the death of her husband Isaia Italeli, who was a member of parliament and the Minister of Works.[4] The under-representation of women in the Tuvalu parliament was discussed during a consultation entitled “Promoting Women in Decision Making” was held in Funafuti in May 2010. The outcome was a recommendation for the introduction of two new seats, to be reserved for women.[15] The Tuvaluan Ministry for Home Affairs, which has responsibility for women’s affairs, stated that steps would be taken to consider the recommendation.[16]

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. The term of the prime minister in the period 1999 to 2004 was short. Bikenibeu Paeniu resigned as prime minister following the vote on a motion of no confidence on 27 April 1999. Ionatana Ionatana was elected as prime minister. After the death of Prime Minister Ionatana on 8 December 2000, Lagitupu Tuilimu was acting prime minister from 8 December 2000 to 24 February 2001. Faimalaga Luka became the prime minister on 24 February 2001 until he was replaced by Koloa Talake after a vote of no confidence on 14 December 2001. Koloa Talake was appointed prime minister until he was voted out of office as a result of the vote at the general election in August 2002. These changes of prime minister 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.[17] 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.[18] The meeting resulted in the Malefatuga Declaration,[19] which is the foundation of Te Kakeega II.[17]

The 2010 general election[edit]

Following the elections held on 25 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.[20] It was expected that Tuvalu would have a period of political stability. However Saufatu Sopoanga resigned as prime minister and member of parliament on 25 August 2004 following the vote on a motion of no confidence.[21] A by-election was held on 7 October 2004 and Saufatu Sopoanga regained his seat. Maatia Toafa was elected prime minister on 11 October 2004 and Saufatu Sopoanga became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Works Transport and Communication.[21]

Apisai Ielemia became prime minister following the Tuvaluan general election, 2006 that was held on 3 August 2006.[22] 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.[23] Twenty-six candidates, including all sitting Members of Parliament, stood for the fifteen seats in Parliament.[24] In total, ten MPs were re-elected, while five incumbent MPs lost their seats.[25]

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 seven and become Tuvalu's 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.[4]

Maatia Toafa government succeeded by the Willy Telavi government[edit]

On 24 December 2010, after a motion of no confidence, carried by eight votes to seven,[26] Maatia Toafa was replaced by Willy Telavi as Prime Minister of Tuvalu.[4][27]

Minister of Works Isaia Italeli died suddenly in July 2011,[28] 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.[4] 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.[29]

The dismissal of the government of Willy Telavi in 2013[edit]

Lotoala Metia, the Minister for Finance, died on 21 December 2012.[30] The calling of a by-election was delayed until the High Court of Tuvalu ordered the Prime Minister to issue a notice to hold the by-election within five days after the judgment, which is delivered in 29 May 2013.[31] The Nukufetau by-election, 2013 was held on 28 June.[32] The Nukufetau by-election was won by the opposition candidate Elisala Pita.[33] 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.[34]

Tuvalu's opposition then requested the Governor-General Iakoba Italeli to intervene against the Prime Minister's decision.[35] On 3 July the Governor-General exercised his reserve powers in ordering Parliament to convene.[36]

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. The same day Taom Tanukale, the Health Minister, resigned from the Parliament (and thus also from the government).[37] This resignation appeared to be political manoeuvre as Willy Telavi responded by insisting that Parliament should be suspended until a by-election was held and declined to call the by-election. In Tuvalu a by-election can only be called when requested by the Prime Minister.[38]

The Governor-General Iakoba Italeli then proceeded to exercise his reserve powers to order Mr Telavi's removal and the appointment of Enele Sopoaga as interim prime minister.[39][40] The Governor General also ordered that Parliament sit on Friday 2 August to allow a vote of no-confidence in Mr Telavi and his government.[41] Telavi then proceeding to write to Queen Elizabeth II (as the head of state of Tuvalu) informing her that he was dismissing Mr Italeli from his position as Governor-General.[40]

On Friday 2 August Willy Tevali faced a motion of no confidence; the voting was eight for the motion, four against and one abstention - the Speaker abstained from voting on the motion.[42]

The government of Enele Sopoaga[edit]

On Sunday 4 August 2013 the Parliament elected Enele Sopoaga as Prime Minister;[43] and Vete Sakaio was subsequently appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Utilities, Maatia Toafa was appointed the Minister of Finance and Economic Development and Taukelina Finikaso was appointed the Foreign Minister.[44]

The Nui by-election, 2013 was held on 10 September. Leneuoti Maatusi was declared the winner, polling 297 of the 778 registered voters. Maatusi 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.[45] The government of Enele Sopoaga had a majority of two going into the by-election.[46] After the by-election Leneuoti Maatusi committed to support Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.[47]

In December 2013 a vacancy for the constituency of Nanumaga was declared by the Governor-General in accordance with Section 99 (2) of the Tuvalu Constitution following an assessment of Falesa Pitoi's health.[48] The Nanumaga by-election, 2014 occurred on 14 January.[49] The candidates were Halo Tuavai, Otinielu Tauteleimalae Tausi and Pai Teatu.[50] Otinielu Tausi was the successful candidate.[51] Tausi has chosen to support Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, which give the government a two-thirds majority of the members of parliament.[52] On 3 March 2014 Tausi was elected as the speaker of the parliament.[53] [54]

Military[edit]

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 patrols.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "PACLII". The Constitution of Tuvalu. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Tuvalu Islands". The Constitution of Tuvalu. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 1989. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Nohlen, D, Grotz, F & Hartmann, C (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p831 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
  6. ^ Tito Isala, Hugh Larcy (ed) (1983). "Chapter 20, Secession and Independence". Tuvalu: A History. University of the South Pacific/Government of Tuvalu. pp. 153–177. 
  7. ^ a b c "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 1981. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Human Rights Council adopted the UPR outcomes of Tuvalu". United Nations Information Centre Canberra. 20 September 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "Government of Tuvalu". Contact Information for the Government of Tuvalu. 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  10. ^ "Tuvalu govt yet to address Fiji travel ban on Chief Justice". Radio New Zealand International. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Jennifer Corrin-Care, Tess Newton and Don Paterson (1999). Introduction to South Pacific Law. London: Cavendish Publishing Ltd. 
  12. ^ a b "PACLII". Tuvalu Courts System Information. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "Tuvalu goes to the polls", Agence France Presse, 16 September 2010.
  14. ^ "Tuvalu completes voting in national elections", Radio Australia, 16 September 2010.
  15. ^ "Women Need Support to Overcome Barriers Entering Parliament", Solomon Times, 11 May 2010
  16. ^ "Support for introducing reserved seats into Tuvalu Parliament", Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, May 13, 2010
  17. ^ a b "Te Kakeega II - National Strategies for Sustainable Development 2005-2015". Government of Tuvalu. 2005. Retrieved 14 Oct 2011. 
  18. ^ Tausoalima means “hand of friendship” and Falekaupule, means traditional island meeting hall.
  19. ^ 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”.
  20. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  22. ^ "Tuvalu-news.tv". Apisai Ielemia New Prime Minister. 16 August 2006. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "Tuvalu Parliament to be dissolved tomorrow ahead of elections in five weeks". Radio New Zealand International. 12 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  24. ^ "Tuvalu gears up for parliamentary elections". Radio New Zealand International. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  25. ^ "Tuvalu PM, speaker retain seats as deputy PM crashes out". Radio Australia. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  26. ^ "Nominations open for new Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  27. ^ "Willie Telavi the new prime minister in Tuvalu". Radio New Zealand International. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  28. ^ "State Funeral for the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon Isaia Taeia Italeli". Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau Newsletter (TPB: 01/2011). 25 July 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  29. ^ "Samoa police rule out foul play in death of Tuvalu minister". Radio New Zealand International. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Tuvalu Minister dies in Suva", Islands Business, 24 December 2012
  31. ^ Matau, Robert (June 2013). "Tuvalu’s high court orders by-election to be held". Island Business. 
  32. ^ "Tuvalu’s former PM Sopoaga has another shot", Islands Business, 10 June 2013
  33. ^ "Tuvalu’s Opposition waiting to hear from GG", Islands Business, 1 July 2013
  34. ^ "Parliament needs one yearly meeting only says defiant Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 2 July 2013. 
  35. ^ Coutts, Geraldine (2 July 2013). "Tuvalu opposition demands parliament be allowed to sit after weekend by-election". Radio Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  36. ^ Matau, Robert (3 July 2013). "Tuvalu’s parliament convenes July 30". Island Business. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  37. ^ "Tuvalu govt bombshells". Islands Business. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  38. ^ Cooney, Campbell (31 July 2013). "Tuvalu speaker blocks no-confidence motion". Australia News Network. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  39. ^ Matau, Robert (1 August 2013). "GG appoints Sopoaga as Tuvalu’s caretaker PM". Island Business. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  40. ^ a b "Dismissal crisis rocks Tuvalu". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  41. ^ Cooney, Campbell (1 August 2013). "Tuvalu government faces constitutional crisis". Australia News Network. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  42. ^ Cooney, Campbell (4 August 2013). "Tuvalu parliament elects new prime minister". Australia News Network. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  43. ^ Cooney, Campbell (5 August 2013). "Sopoaga elected new PM in Tuvalu". Radio Australia. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  44. ^ "Enele Sopoaga Sworn-in Today as Tuvalu’s New PM". Islands Business. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  45. ^ "New MP elected in Tuvalu". Islands Business from Radio Tuvalu. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  46. ^ "Tuvalu voters toss out cabinet minister who forced a by-election". Radio New Zealand International. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  47. ^ "New Tuvalu Govt to release road map for first 100 days in power". Radio New Zealand International. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  48. ^ "Tuvalu to hold by-election in Nanumaga". Radio New Zealand International. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  49. ^ Matau, Robert (January 2014). "New speaker for Tuvalu in the new year?". Islands Business. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  50. ^ "Tuvalu by-election sees former speaker win seat". Islands Business - From RNZI/ FENUI NEWS/PACNEWS. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  51. ^ "Tuvalu by-election sees former speaker win seat". Radio New Zealand. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  52. ^ "Former Tuvalu Speaker joins government". Islands Business – From FENUI NEWS/PACNEWS. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  53. ^ Matau, Robert (4 March 2014). "Tuvalu’s new speaker". Islands Business. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  54. ^ "Tuvalu PM says ousted speaker misinterpreted constitution". Radio New Zealand International. 4 March 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Politics of Tuvalu at Wikimedia Commons