What Type Of Government Does Vanuatu Have?

The flag of Vanuatu.
The flag of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean. It has a representative parliamentary system where the President is the head of the Republic and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The constitution was drafted and enacted in the year 1979 and came into effect upon the country’s Independence Day which is July 30, 1980. The constitution declares Vanuatu as a “sovereign democratic state”.

History And Evolution Of The Government Of Vanuatu

The first governments were formed by the British and French jointly. In 1906, France and United Kingdom entered an agreement to govern the Island together. The agreement was called a condominium which was a very unique form of government at the time. The government soon ran into problems around the year 1940 and the arrival of Americans during the Second World War led to the dissolution of the government and led to nationalist sentiments which led to a movement for independence in 1974 which was eventually achieved in 1980 after the brief Coconut War.

Current Parliamentary Structure

The Prime Minister is the head of the government which is unicameral, i.e. comprises of a single house. The parliament has a total of 52 members who are elected by a popular vote every four years. The parliament can be dissolved midterm with a general consensus but requires a three-fourths majority. The Prime Minister appoints a Council of Ministers which serve as the cabinet. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers form the executive government which is the primary decision making and ruling body.

Council Of Ministers and Ministries

To date there have been a total of 10 cabinets including the present one. There are a total of 12 ministries and the prime minister and his deputy complete the executive branch of the government. The ministries of internal affairs, foreign affairs, trade, and finance are the most important positions. The other ministries are for lands, public utilities, justice, climate change, education, health, agriculture, youth and sport. For the current cabinet, the Minister of Trade is also serving as the Deputy Prime Minister. A unique feature of the Vanuatu Council of Ministers is the totally multi-party representation, with at least 7 different parties represented in addition to 2 independent members in the council.

Amendments To Constitution

Constitutional Amendments are allowed and are only allowed to be passed by parliamentary legislation. A clear two-thirds majority is required in the parliament at a single sitting. At least three-fourths of the members must be present for an amendment to be proposed and considered for a vote. Some amendments are crucial and are required to be endorsed by a national referendum first.

Other Hands Of Government

The government is also responsible for maintaining the armed forces division which comprises of a Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) and a parliamentary wing, called the Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF). The government also recognizes tribal chiefs and holds the Council of Chiefs in high regard. The Supreme Court and the justice system is also an important wing of the government. The government also allows for a village or island courts which are presided over by the village chiefs.


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