System of Government
Republic - Parliamentary democracy
Former government: Condominium , governed jointly by France and Britain (1906-1980)
Independence:30 July 1980
Constitution:Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu (30 July 1980) - Act of the Vanuatu Parliament.
Combined common law system , incorporating British, French and customary law. Constitution is the supreme law.
Former system : British law, French law and Joint Regulations (1906-1980).
Bislama is the national language
Bislama, English, French are the official languages
English and French are the principal languages of education
(i) Executive Branch:
Head of State: President - elected by an Electoral College, consisting of Parliament and the leaders of the provincial governments, for a five-year term.
Head of Government: Prime Minister - Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected Prime Minister by Parliament from among its members.
Cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister, responsible to Parliament.
(ii) Legislative Branch:
Parliament - unicameral with 52 seats - members elected by popular vote to serve four year terms.
National Council of Chiefs - Malvatumauri - composed of custom chiefs elected by their peers; advises Parliament on all matters relating to custom and tradition; may make recommendations for preservation and promotion of ni-Vanuatu culture and languages.
(iii) Judicial Branch:
Supreme Court - the Chief Justice is appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition; three other Justices are appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Services Commission.
Court of Appeal - the highest appellate court comprising 2 or more judges from the Supreme Court. Note: Court of Appeal often includes senior judges from other common law countries in the region.
6 provinces - Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea and Torba
Note: By tradition, Custom chiefs exercise customary authority within local communities and the Malvatumauri have a constitutional role at village, island and provincial levels.
Function of Parliament
The Legislative branch of Vanuatu exists by virtue of the Article 15 of the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu.
It is also the Legislative power, under the principles of the Separation of Powers which is exercised by a single-Chamber Legislature known as Parliament – and the Parliament has the following functions:
1. To adopt the laws;
2. To give the laws;
3. To amend the laws;
4. To repeal the laws;
5. To review/amend the National Constitution (as member of Electoral College);
6. To legislate as Sovereign body in the interest of the peace, order, good government, peace and harmony in the Republic of Vanuatu;
7. To legislate on any matter without being subordinate to anybody or anything, apart from the Constitution;
8. To approve nation’s budget, submitted annually by Government;
9. To approve all taxations and public expenditures that requires its authority;
10. To approve all international, multilateral or bilateral agreements which commit the country’s international responsability of the expenditure of public funds, by way of ratifications;
11. To ratify any treaty or agreement relating to the status of the transfer, exchange or annexation of territory;
12. To ratify means to formally approve an undertaking that has already been given by Government, in order to assign it the fullest validity;
13. To scrutinize the domestic policies of the Government through its Parliamentary Standing Committees;
14. To scrutinize the foreign policies of the Government through its Parliamentary Standing Committees;
15. To approve Government guaranty of loans that Government takes from local or international financial institutions.
How Laws are made
New laws begin as documents called bills. Bills are drafts of proposed new laws. Parliament considers several different types of bill in formal stages. If they pass through all those stages they become new laws, called Acts of Parliament. Below is a schematic description which briefly describe the process of bills starting from each Ministries then to Development Committee of Officials (DCO), to Council of Ministers (COM) , to State Law Office for drafting, to Parliament for debate, to the Head of State to Ascend and then to State Law office for gazetting. After the bill has been officially gazetted by the State Law Office, it is now become a Law (Act).