The Republic of Kiribati was established in 1979 as a sovereign democratic republic and guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens. The unicameral House of Assembly (Maneabani Maungatabu) has 44 members elected for four years by universal adult suffrage, plus one appointed member from the Banaban community, and the attorney-general. The speaker is elected by members of the Maneaba.
Following an election, the Maneaba nominates three or four members to stand as candidates for president. The voting public elect the president (Te Beretitenti). The Beretitenti is head of state and head of government. He or she appoints a vice president, attorney general and up to eight other cabinet ministers from among the members of the Maneaba.
Judicial appointments are made by the Beretitenti on the advice of the Public Service Commission.
The most serious civil and criminal cases come before the High Court and appeals from the High Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. Less serious civil, criminal and land cases are heard by magistrates in more than 20 magistrates’ courts. Normally cases come before one presiding magistrate and two others, and land cases before one presiding and four others. Appeals from the lower courts are heard by the High Court. The Land Division of the High Court deals with appeals relating to land, divorce and inheritance.
Kiribati is made up of three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands and the Phoenix Islands. The present inhabitants are descended mainly from Samoans who migrated to Kiribati at some time between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. Having first been sighted by Europeans (Spaniards) in the sixteenth century, Europeans did not arrive in any numbers until the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1892 a British protectorate was proclaimed. Kiribati became independent in 1979.
The flag of Kiribati, officially adopted in 1979, depicts a yellow frigate bird flying, a yellow sun and the ocean. The coat of arms of Kiribati features the national motto: health, peace and prosperity.
Before 1985 there were no political parties in Kiribati; candidates for parliament ran as independents. A number of parties began to emerge henceforth, such as TeataoTeannaki’s National Progressive Party, Teburoro Tito’s ManeabanTeMauri (MTM), and BoutokaanTeKoaua (BTK).
In the 2003 presidential elections Anote Tong of the BTK narrowly defeated his younger brother, Harry Tong of the MTM.
No single party won a majority in the 2011 parliamentary election. The presidential election of January 2012 was won by the incumbent, Anote Tong.
In 1900 the British government annexed Banaba (formerly named Ocean Island) after the discovery of phosphate resources. Phosphate mining rendered Banaba almost uninhabitable. The inhabitants were moved to the Fijian island of Rabi in the mid-1940s; in 1970 they became citizens of Fiji, but kept the ownership of land on Banaba. In 1981 they accepted A$14.58 million compensation from the British government. The Banabans have special rights of representation and residence in Kiribati.