Malta is a democratic republic. The government is the seat of executive power, and is headed by the prime minister. Legislative power resides in both the executive and the legislature.

The president is elected for a five-year term by the unicameral House of Representatives. The president appoints as prime minister the leader of the party with the majority of seats in the House. The president also appoints, on the advice of the prime minister, the individual ministers who are selected from the members of the House.

Although the president does have executive authority, the position is largely ceremonial since he or she must act on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet.

The House of Representatives has 65 members, with bonus seats being given to the party which gains an absolute majority of the votes but not a parliamentary majority. Elections take place at least every five years under a system of single transferable vote.

For the purposes of local government the island of Malta has one city council (Valletta) and 54 district councils, and the island of Gozo has 14 district councils.

Under the constitution, Roman Catholic Christianity is the state religion and must be taught in state schools.

The judiciary is independent. The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction in matters relating to elections and membership of the House of Representatives, and hears appeals involving human rights, the constitution and the integrity of laws. The Court of Appeal receives appeals regarding civil cases from the civil or magistrates’ courts, or from the several administrative tribunals. The Court of Criminal Appeal deals with appeals arising from criminal cases in the criminal or magistrates’ courts. Criminal courts generally sit with a judge and jury.

Malta’s legal system is a combination of English common law and civil law (grounded in the Roman and Napoleonic civil codes).