Politics of Palau

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The politics of Palau take place in a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Palau is both head of state and head of government. Palau currently has no political parties and is a de facto non-partisan democracy although there is no law preventing the formation of political parties.

Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Palau National Congress. The judiciary of Palau is independent of the executive and the legislature.


Palau adopted a constitution on January 1, 1981.[1]

While calm in recent years, Palau witnessed several instances of political violence in the 1980s. The republic's first president, Haruo I. Remeliik, was assassinated in 1985; the Minister of State[who?] was found to be complicit in the crime. Palau's third president, Lazarus Salii, committed suicide in August 1988 amid bribery allegations. Salii's personal assistant had been imprisoned several months earlier after being convicted of firing shots into the home of the Speaker of the House of Delegates.[citation needed]

Palau gained independence from the United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States on 1 October 1994 and entered a Compact of Free Association with the United States.

The Senate passed legislation making Palau an "offshore" financial center in 1998. Opponents to the legislation voiced fears that the country would become a haven for money launderers and other sorts of criminal activity. In December 1999, a group of major international banks banned U.S. dollar-denominated transactions involving Palau and the other Pacific island states of Vanuatu and Nauru.[2]

Executive branch[edit]

Headquarters of the Ministry of State

Presidential elections take place every four years, when the president and vice president run on separate tickets. The president, who is the head of state and head of government, is currently Surangel Whipps Jr.


The President is advised and assisted in governing by his/her Cabinet, composed of the Vice President and ministers responsible for the eight government ministries. The ministries include Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education.

Current Cabinet of Palau
Ministry Minister Duties Child Agencies
Vice President Uduch Sengebau Senior National Emergency Management Office (NEMO)
Education Dr. Dale Jenkins responsible for managing, operating and promoting public elementary and secondary schools systems and developing and implementing educational curricula and standards at every educational level Bureaus of: Education Administration, Curriculum and Instruction [3]
Finance Kaleb Udui Jr. "ensures accountability, continuous productivity of government services, and economic growth by promoting policies for, and sound management of, expenditures, revenues, financing and human resources" Bureaus of: Budget & Planning, National Treasury, Public Service System, Revenue and Taxation, Customs and Border Protection

Information Systems Support Services

Health & Human Services Gaafar Ucherbelau "take positive actions to attain healthful environment, promote health and social welfare, protect family and health safety, and provide health care services" Bureaus of: Public Health; Hospital & Clinical Services

Offices of : Health Administration & Support Services; Health Policy, Research, & Development

Medical Referral Program

Hospital Trust Fund

Justice Uduch Sengebau-Senior Office of the Attorney General

Bureaus of: Immigration and Labor, Public Safety

Divisions of: Criminal Investigation/Drug Enforcement, Patrol, Fire & Rescue, Corrections, Marine Law Enforcement, Fish & Wildlife Protection

Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism Steven Victor "promoting, exploring, exploiting, developing, protecting, and managing the natural resources, in areas of marine and fisheries, agriculture, aqauculture, forests, mineral and other land-based and ocean-based resources as well as tourism” Bureaus of: Agriculture, Marine Resources, Tourism

Protected Areas Network

Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce Charles Obichang Bureaus of: Aviation, Public Works, Land and Survey, Commercial Development

Small Business Development Center

Palau Energy Office

State Gustav Aitaro Bureaus of: International Trade & Technical Assistance, Domestic Affairs, Foreign Affairs

Offices of: Administration, Protocol, the Public Defender, Passport

EPFM Live Broadcast

Embassies and Consulates



Olbiil era Kelulau building in the capitol complex

The Palau National Congress (Olbiil era Kelulau) is a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Delegates and the Senate of Palau, which both sit at the Capitol Complex in Ngerulmud, Melekeok State.

  • The House of Delegates has 16 members, each serving four-year terms from single-seat constituencies.
  • The Senate has 13 members, also serving four-year terms in multi-seat constituencies.

In the last elections, held on 1 November 2016, only non-partisans were elected; no political parties exist.



Judiciary building in the capitol complex

The judiciary of Palau interprets and applies the laws of Palau, as modified by custom and tradition, to ensure equal justice under law, and to provide a mechanism for dispute resolution. The judiciary comprises a four-member Supreme Court, a Court of Common Pleas, and a Land Court.[10] The Supreme Court has a trial division and an appellate division and is presided over by the Chief Justice, assisted by three Associate Justices and a number of ad hoc part-time Associate Justices.[11]

Council of Chiefs[edit]

The Council of Chiefs consists of one traditional leader from each of the sixteen States of Palau. It exists to ensure that traditional ways of life are preserved in Palau. The Council has an official advisory role to the President, specifically on issues relating to the tradition laws and customs and how they relate to Palau's Constitution and laws. The sixteen members each have a unique title.[12]

The current Chairman of the Council was Yutaka Gibbons of Koror.


The executive branch also has some independent agencies, including the Environmental Quality Protection Board, created in 1981 and tasked with protecting the "unique and aesthetically beautiful environment while promoting sustainable economic and social development".

COFA Trust Fund Board[edit]

To manage the funds appropriate to Palau from the United States through the Compact of Free Association (COFA), the COFA Trust Fund Board was reestablished in 2014. The Board meets monthly to review the trust fund's performance and meets annually with the investment advisor (currently Raymond James & Associates' Asia-Pacific Group, based in Guam).[13]


  1. ^ Patterson, Carolyn Bennett, et al. "At the Birth of Nations: In the Far Pacific." National Geographic Magazine, October 1986 page 493. National Geographic Virtual Library, Accessed 17 May 2018. "The westernmost among the emerging nations of the Pacific, the Republic of Palau (or Belau), population more than 15,000, is divided into 16 separate states, each with its own governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature. Most state populations are very small, and one wonders if anyone has time for anything but government, American style and democratic though it may be. An example is Peleliu, the tragic island where more than 13,000 Americans and Japanese died during less than three months of fighting, often hand to hand, in the autumn of 1944. Pat and I went to Peleliu from Koror, the republic's capital, by speedboat, a wave-tossing, rear-slapping 45 minutes, and arrived to discover it was election day, with five candidates running for governor. Although Peleliu claims a population of 2,000 people, only 400 actually live there. More registered voters live in Koror than on their home island, and 800 send votes from Guam. The situation is similar in Palau's other states. A current joke puts a laugh in the truth. A man walks into a bar in Koror and calls out, "Hey, Governor!" And half the men in the place stand up. But that's only the state story. The national government is headed by President Lazarus Salii, followed by a vice president, a cabinet responsible for five ministries, a judiciary, and a legislature with a 16-member house and a 14-member senate. Then there's the hereditary leadership. Each village has ten chiefs, ranked in importance. And, dividing the island group, there are two paramount chiefs. Never, I thought, have so few been governed by so many."
  2. ^ Field, Michael (December 21, 1999). "World Banks Isolate Three Pacific Countries: Nauru, Palau and Vanuatu Accused of Money Laundering". Pacific Islands Report. Agence France-Presse. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "Ministry of Education – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  4. ^ "Ministry of Finance – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  5. ^ "Ministry of Health – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  6. ^ "Ministry of Justice – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  7. ^ "Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  8. ^ "Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Industries & Commerce – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  9. ^ "Ministry of State – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  10. ^ "Organization". Judiciary of Palau. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  11. ^ "Associate Justices". Judiciary of Palau. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  12. ^ "Council of Chiefs – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  13. ^ "COFA Trust Fund Board – PalauGov.pw". Retrieved 2019-02-28.