Marshall Islands Government and Politics

State and politics


A Compact of Free Association treaty between the Marshall Islands and the United States entered into force in 1986. According to the treaty, which was renewed in 2003 and runs until 2023, the United States retains responsibility for the Marshall Islands’ defense and military bases in the Marshall Islands and, at the same time, provides the Marshall Islands with economic assistance.

It was not until 1990 that the UN agreed that the Marshall Islands ceased to be part of the Pacific Island Management Area. Marshall Islands was elected to the UN in 1991. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of MH and its meanings of Marshall Islands.

According to, the Constitution of the Republic of the Marshall Islands was adopted in 1979. The state of affairs is parliamentary. Parliament, Nitijela, has 33 members, elected in four years. They elect among themselves the president of the republic, who appoints ministers, who must also be members of parliament. In addition, there is an advisory assembly, Iroij, with twelve chieftains as members.


Some formal political parties do not exist, but the political associations that exist largely function as parties.

The first President Amata Kabua (1928–96), who took office in 1979 and was re-elected several times, was succeeded in 1997 by his cousin Imata Kabua (1943–2019). In 2000, Kessai Note (born 1950) was elected president. He was succeeded in 2008 by the former President and Opposition Leader Litokwa Tomeing (born 1939). This was dismissed in 2009 after a vote of no confidence and the new President of Parliament was appointed Jurelang Zedkaia (1950–2015). At the end of 2011, parliamentary elections were held, and the newly elected members in January 2012 appointed Christopher Loeak (born 1952) as new president.

The incumbent government lost the parliamentary elections in November 2015, but government supporters succeeded in January 2016 despite having their candidate, Carsten Nemra (born 1971), elected president. However, he lost a vote of confidence in parliament that month and was replaced by Hilda C. Heine (born 1951), who thus became the country’s first female president.


The legal system in the Marshall Islands is greatly influenced by American law. The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court and also includes special courts for the application of local customary law (Traditional Rights Court). The death penalty was abolished in connection with the country’s independence in 1979.

Heads of State

1979-96 Amata Kabua
1997-2000 Imata Kabua
2000-08 Kessai Note
2008-09 Litokwa Tomeing
2009-12 Jurelang Zedkaia
2012-16 Christopher Loeak
2016- Hilda C. Heine

Marshall Islands Head of Government

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