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Vanuatu, Government

South Pacific Forum, popular election, president of Vanuatu, local matters, Commonwealth of Nations

Vanuatu is governed under a constitution that came into effect with the republicís independence in 1980. The president of Vanuatu serves as head of state, a largely ceremonial office. The president is elected by Vanuatuís parliament and the heads of regional government councils. The parliament, or legislature, is a single-chamber body whose membership has increased several times since independence; in 1998 the parliament had 52 members. Members of parliament are chosen by popular election and serve four-year terms. The parliament chooses from among its members a prime minister, who serves a four-year term as the head of government and may be reelected indefinitely. The prime minister and a council of ministers that he or she appoints hold executive power. Vanuatuís National Council of Chiefs, a body of traditional chiefs elected by their peers, plays an advisory role in matters concerning land and cultural traditions. All adults in Vanuatu age 18 and older are eligible to vote.

The Supreme Court of Vanuatu holds the highest level of judicial power. The president appoints the chief justice of the court upon the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. The country also has a court of appeal and magistrate courts that handle local matters. Legislation passed in 1994 replaced Vanuatuís 11 local government councils with 6 provincial bodies that hold greater executive authority than the former councils.

Vanuatu is active in regional affairs. The country is a member of the South Pacific Commission, a body promoting social stability, and the South Pacific Forum, a regional organization concerned with foreign affairs and international trade. Vanuatu also belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations , a voluntary association of countries and territories that give symbolic or actual allegiance to the United Kingdom.

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