Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: Queen Elizabeth II
Head of Government: Prime Minister Willy Telavi
Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by the governor general, who is appointed by the Queen on advice of the prime minister. Members of the Parliament elect the prime minister. 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 island courts. The rulings of the High Court can be appealed to the Tuvalu Court of Appeal.
Democratic values in Tuvalu are strong, with free elections every 4 years by universal adult suffrage. There are no formal political parties; election campaigns are largely on the basis of home island/personal/family ties and reputation.
Members of Parliament have very close ties to the islands they represent. Often the northern islands in the country compete against the southern islands, with the capital isle of Funafuti holding the balance of power. Traditional chiefs and island councils also still play significant roles 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 has had a number of prime ministers. This in part reflects the pressures affecting the small nation, including the transition from an exchange economy to a money economy, an adopted system of government with only limited regard for Tuvaluan traditions of decision making, and the lack of a clear national path to implement Tuvalu's vision for the future.
After elections in September 2010, Maatia Toafa became Prime Minister, replacing Apisai Ielemia. Toafa previously was leader of the opposition; he also had been prime minister from 2004 to 2006. In December 2010, after a vote of no confidence, Toafa was replaced by Willy Telavi, the Minister of Home Affairs. Telavi is the 13th Prime Minister of Tuvalu. The next elections will be held in 2014.
Tuvalu maintains an independent but generally pro-Western foreign policy. It maintains close relations with Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. It has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which maintains the only resident embassy in Tuvalu and has a large assistance program in the islands. There is no U.S. embassy in Tuvalu, but U.S. diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Fiji are accredited to Tuvalu and visit there regularly.
Tuvalu became a member of United Nations in 2000 and maintains a mission at the UN in New York. Tuvalu's only other diplomatic office is its High Commission in Suva, Fiji. Tuvalu is an active member of the Pacific Islands Forum and a member of the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (October 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( October 2011)