Tuvalu is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The British sovereign is head of state and is represented by a Governor-General, who must be a citizen of Tuvalu and is appointed by the head of state on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is elected by parliament and is head of government. The cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, plus up to four other ministers, appointed by the Governor-General from among the members of parliament, on the advice of the Prime Minister. The cabinet advises the Governor-General who must accept its advice.
Parliament is composed of 15 members: two elected every four years by universal adult suffrage from seven electoral districts and one from the remainder. The Speaker, elected by the members, presides over parliament.
The constitution provides for the operation of a judiciary and for an independent public service. It guarantees protection of all fundamental rights and freedoms, and provides for the determination of citizenship.
There are no political parties in Tuvalu. Following the July 2002 general election, when Prime Minister Koloa Talake lost his seat, Saufatu Sopoanga was elected by Parliament to be Prime Minister. However, after the by-elections in May 2003, he no longer commanded the support of the majority of MPs, but refused to recall Parliament until after October 2003 when one opposition member was appointed to cabinet and, following another by-election, one more member joined the government benches. However, in August 2004 Sopoanga was unable to win a vote of confidence and in October 2004 Maatia Toafa was elected Prime Minister.
Eight new members were elected in the August 2006 general election, Prime Minister Toafa being the only member of his cabinet to retain their seat. Parliament subsequently elected Apisai Ielemia Prime Minister.
In the September 2010 general election, ten of the 15 members from the previous Parliament were re-elected. Parliament then elected Maatia Toafa Prime Minister; he defeated Kausea Natano by eight votes to seven. On 21 December 2010, however, the new head of government was defeated in a no-confidence vote and on 24 December Willy Telavi was chosen by Parliament to succeed him, defeating Enele Sopoaga by eight votes to seven.
On 2 August 2013 Prime Minister Willy Telavi lost a vote of no confidence (eight to four) and on 4 August Sopoaga was elected Prime Minister (eight to five).
Twelve of the 15 members of the previous Parliament were returned in the general election on 31 March 2015. Parliament assembled on 10 April to choose a Prime Minister and Enele Sopoaga was re-elected uncontested.