The constitution of the Republic of Nauru came into force in January 1968. It provides for a unicameral Parliament, whose 19 members – increased from 18 in July 2010 – are elected by universal adult suffrage in multi-seat constituencies. Voting is compulsory for all Nauruans over the age of 20. It is mandatory for a parliamentary general election to be held not less than once every three years.
The President is the head of state and head of government and is elected by the parliament from among its members. Executive authority is vested in the cabinet, which consists of the President and four or five members of the parliament chosen by the President. The cabinet is collectively responsible to parliament. The parliament also elects a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker.
The 18 members of parliament represent eight constituencies. The number of representatives for each constituency is determined on the basis of population numbers.
The constitution protects fundamental rights and freedoms. There is a treasury fund from which monies may be taken by appropriation acts. A public service is provided for and the chief secretary is the public service commissioner. Special mention is made in the constitution of the allocation of profits and royalties from the sale of phosphate.
By 2003 the country faced a severe financial crisis. The government was unable to pay salaries and was under pressure from OECD countries to regulate offshore banking and stop money-laundering. Following elections in May 2003 – the first after formation of Nauru First party – the three presidential candidates were each supported by six members and there were no candidates for the post of Speaker, and it was three weeks before the Nauru First members gave their support to Ludwig Scotty. However, he retained the confidence of the MPs only until August 2003, when parliament chose former President René Harris to be President.
In September 2004 Scotty was again elected to the presidency and an early general election was held in October 2004, observed by a joint Pacific Islands Forum/Commonwealth observer mission. The new parliament then elected Scotty unopposed as President.
In the general election in August 2007, President Scotty’s supporters took 14 seats and MPs subsequently re-elected him. His opponent, Marcus Stephen, was supported by three members. However, Scotty’s third term lasted only four months; he was deposed in a vote of no confidence in December 2007 and Marcus Stephen was chosen by parliament to be President.
Following his election Stephen had the support of only nine of 18 MPs. The government was paralysed, Stephen declared a state of emergency and dissolved parliament. At the ensuing elections in April 2008 the President’s supporters achieved a working majority, winning 12 of the 18 parliamentary seats; Stephen was re-elected President and the deadlock ended.
An early general election in April 2010, occasioned by the defection of three members, returned exactly the same members, and parliament continued to be deadlocked. Negotiations and another election in June 2010 failed to secure a resolution. The deadlock finally ended in November 2010 when parliament re- elected Stephen as President, defeating Milton Dube 11 votes to six.
President Stephen stepped down in November 2011 amid allegations of corruption in a phosphate deal. In two parliamentary votes in November – both won by nine votes to eight – Freddie Pitcher defeated Milton Dube only to be ousted by Sprent Dabwido less than a week later.
In the general election, held on 8 June 2013, 19 members were elected, seven of whom were new members. In the parliamentary vote that followed on 11 June, Baron Waqa was elected President, defeating Roland Kun 13:5.