Constitutional status of the governor general
The Monarchy of Tuvalu exists in a framework of a parliamentaryrepresentative democracy. As a constitutional monarch, The Queen acts entirely on the advice of her government ministers in Tuvalu. The Head of State is recognised in section 50 of the Constitution of Tuvalu, as a symbol of the unity and identity of Tuvalu. The powers of the head of state are set out in section 52 (1) of the Constitution.
Part IV of the Constitution confirms the head of state of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II as the sovereign of Tuvalu and provides for the rules for succession to the Crown. As set out in section 54 of the Constitution, the Queen’s representative is the governor-general. Section 58 of the Constitution requires the governor-general to perform the functions of the head of state when the sovereign is outside Tuvalu or otherwise incapacitated. The governor-general of Tuvalu is appointed by the monarch upon the advice of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.
The position is largely ceremonial. However the holder has constitutional responsibilities and reserve powers in relation to the ordering parliament to convene and the appointment and dismissal of the prime minister. In 2003 the Chief Justice of the High Court of Tuvalu delivered directions as to how the governor-general should proceed to take any action he considers to be appropriate under Section 116(1) of the Constitution, acting in his own deliberate judgment, rather than as advised by the cabinet. That is, the governor-general could consider whether it was appropriate to exercise his reserve powers in calling parliament.
The governor-general Iakoba Italeli was called on to exercise the reserve powers when prime minister Willy Telavi refused to recall parliament after the Nukufetau by-election, 2013. 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 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, 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 proceeded 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.
The constitutional crisis was resolved by a motion of no confidence in the government of Willy Tevali, which was held on 2 August 2013: the voting was eight for the motion, four against and one abstention. On 4 August the parliament elected Enele Sopoaga as prime minister.
^ Sione stood for parliament after leaving his post.
^ The only governor-general not to accept a knighthood.