How Parliament works

  • System of Government


    Republic - Parliamentary democracy
    Former government: Condominium , governed jointly by France and Britain (1906-1980)


    30 July 1980


    Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu (30 July 1980) - Act of the Vanuatu Parliament.

    Legal system:

    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).

    Official Languages:

    Bislama is the national language
    Bislama, English, French are the official languages
    English and French are the principal languages of education

    National Government:

    (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:

    Island Courts
    Magistrates' Court

    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.

    Regional Government:

    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.

     Current Bill Initiation to Completion Process

    1. Development Committee of Officials (DCO)
      • Reviews policy papers created through Political will and raised through Government Ministries
      • Reviews final draft of bills
    2. Council of Ministers (COM)
      • Reviews policy papers submitted from DCO and sends drafting Instruction to Attorney General and team of legislative drafters for the commencement of bill creation
      • Reviews final draft of bills
    3. State Law
      • Prepares a draft bill and liaises closely with relevant ministry to ensure the bills accuracy
      • Final version of bill should give effect to the initial policy paper
      • Sends final version of bill to DCO and COM for final review
      • Sends final version of bill to translators
      • Lodges bill with the Clerk of Parliament
    4. Offices of the Speaker/Clerk of Parliament
      • Gives notices of Sessions and Bills to Members of Parliament
      • Distributes to Members for review/study before Parliamentary Sittings for discussion and debate on Bills
    5. Members of Parliament
      • Members of Parliament receive Bills from the Clerk of Parliament and relate them with the members of their constituency to ensure that they express their views, concerns and interests on the proposed legislation
      • Bills are debated in Parliament and amendments may be proposed by Members on the floor of the House.
    6. Parliament
      • Bills go through their Introduction and First Reading and are debated
      • Bills go through the Committee of the Whole House where amendments may take place on the floor
      • Bills may be referred to an Ad hoc Committee
      • Bills go through Second Reading and are passed by Parliament
      • End of parliament sitting, State Law and Office of the Clerk consolidate amendments and corrections that transpired during sittiing
      • Translators incorporate changes into original Bill
    7. Parliament
      • Recheck and authentication by the Clerk of the Bill as passed by Parliament
      • Copies of the Bill (4) as passed by Parliament are to be printed on paper by the Clerk
      • Copies of the Bill are to be presented by the Clerk to the President for assent
    8. State House
      • President checks that a Bill is consistent with the Constitution and show assent to the Bill by signing on each copy
      • Bill becomes now an Act of Parliament
      • Any Bill considered to be inconsistent with the Constitution is referred by the President to Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality
    9. Court
      • Supreme Court declares the Act is unconstitutional it becomes null and void
      • Supreme Court declares the Act is constitutional it is returned to President for assent
    10. Parliament
      • Acts are numbered consecutively in the order in which they become Acts by the Clerk
      • Assented copies of the Acts become original copies of the Acts
      • The Speaker is to retain one original copy of the Acts and shall cause 1 each of the remainder to be deposited with the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General
    11. State Law
      • Checks with Minister responsible for the Bill now passed as an Act of Parliament to warrant its gazetting
    12. Minister
      • Decides to reject or approve an Act of Parliament from being gazetted
    13. State Law Office
      • Given Ministers approval the Act is gazetted to become law and comes into effect on the day it is gazetted unless the law itself states a date on which it will come into effect
      • Given Ministers disapproval the Act is put aside and not published in the official gazette of the Government


    Below is a schematic description which briefly summarizes the process of bills stated above