Government of the Marshall Islands

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Marshall Islands

The government of the Marshall Islands operates under a mixed parliamentary-presidential system as set forth in its Constitution.[1] Elections are held every four years in universal suffrage (for all citizens above 18), with each of the twenty-four constituencies (see below) electing one or more representatives (senators) to the lower house of RMI’s unicameral legislature, the Nitijela. (Majuro, the capital atoll, elects five senators.) The President, who is head of state as well as head of government, is elected by the 33 senators of the Nitijela. Four of the five Marshallese presidents who have been elected since the Constitution was adopted in 1979 have been traditional paramount chiefs.[2]

Governance occurs in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, and of an emerging multi-party system, whereby the President of the Marshall Islands is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Nitijela (Legislature). The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Executive branch

The Marshall Islands Capitol building

The president is elected by the Nitijela from among its members. Presidents pick cabinet members from the Nitijela. Amata Kabua was elected as the first president of the republic in 1979. Subsequently, he was re-elected to four-year terms in 1983, 1987, 1991, and 1996. After Amata Kabua's death in office, his first cousin, Imata Kabua, won a special election in 1997. The current president was elected and took office in January 4 2015.

The executive branch consists of the President and the Presidential Cabinet, which consists of ten ministers appointed by the President with the approval of the Nitijela.

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Hilda Heine Independent 28 January 2016

Legislative branch

The legislative branch of the government of the Marshall Islands consists of the Legislature (Nitijela) with an advisory council of high chiefs. Legislative power lies with the Nitijela. The upper house of Parliament, called the Council of Iroij, is an advisory body comprising twelve tribal chiefs. The Nitijela has 33 members, elected for a four-year term in 19 single-seat and five multi-seat constituencies. Members are called Senators. The Legislature was last elected 17 November 2011 without the participation of parties, though part of the members could be members of the AKA and United Democratic Party.

The twenty-four electoral districts into which the country is divided correspond to the inhabited islands and atolls. There are currently four political parties in the Marshall Islands: Aelon Kein Ad (AKA), Kien Eo Am (KEA), United People's Party (UPP), and United Democratic Party (UDP). As of 2011 legislative elections, rule is shared by the AKA and the KEA. The following senators are currently in the legislative body:[3]


The Marshall Islands is divided into 33 municipalities:

  • Ailinginae (Aelōn̄in Ae)
  • Ailinglaplap (Aelōn̄ļapļap)
  • Ailuk (Aelok)
  • Arno (Arņo)
  • Aur (Aur)
  • Bikar (Pikaar)
  • Bikini (Pikinni)
  • Ebon (Epoon)
  • Enewetak (Ānewetak)
  • Erikub (Ādkup)
  • Jabat (Jebat)
  • Jaluit (Jālwōj)
  • Jemo (Jemo̧)
  • Kili (Kōle)
  • Kwajalein (Kuwajleen)
  • Lae (Lae)
  • Lib (Ellep)
  • Likiep (Likiep)
  • Majuro (Mājro)
  • Maloelap (M̧aļoeļap)
  • Mejit (Mājej)
  • Mili (Mile)
  • Namorik (Nam̧dik)
  • Namu (Nam̧o)
  • Rongelap (Ron̄ļap)
  • Rongrik (Ron̄dik)
  • Taongi (Bokaak)
  • Toke (Tōkā)
  • Ujae (Ujae)
  • Ujelang (Wūjlan̄)
  • Utirik (Utrōk)
  • Wotho (Wōtto)
  • Wotje (Wōjjā)

Foreign affairs and defense

The Compact of Free Association with the United States gives the U.S. sole responsibility for international defense of the Marshall Islands. It allows islanders to live and work in the United States, and establishes economic and technical aid programs.

Further information: Compact of Free Association

Judicial branch

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has four court systems: Supreme Court, High Court, district and community courts, and the traditional rights court. Trial is by jury or judge. Jurisdiction of the traditional rights court is limited to cases involving titles or land rights or other disputes arising from customary law and traditional practice.

See also


  1. "Constitution of the Marshall Islands". Retrieved 2010-07-04.
  2. Johnson, Giff (2010-11-25). "Huge funeral recognizes late Majuro chief". Marianas Variety News & Views. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  3. "Results for 2011 Elections in Marshall Islands". Adam Carr News. 21 February 2012.
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