Palau Government and Politics

State and politics

Palau Country Flag

Reference: Palau Flag Meaning


The Republic of Palau, which became independent in 1994, has a democratic regime in which the executive power lies with a president who is elected in general direct elections for a four-year term. All presidents have been men.

The legislative power lies in Parliament, which consists of a Senate with 13 members and a House of Delegates with 16 members, one for each state. Both houses are elected in general elections every four years. After the 2016 elections, two of the members (12.5 percent) of the delegates’ houses were women.

In the treaty that underlies Palau’s independence, the United States undertakes to take care of Palau’s defense as well as provide the country with financial assistance.


There are no political parties in Palau but the candidates stand as independent. Head of State at the time of independence in 1994 was the Japanese-run Kuniwo Nakamura (born 1943). He was succeeded in 2001 by Tommy Remengesau (born 1956), who was re-elected in 2004 by a wide margin. Remengesau did not run for office in the 2008 election, which was won by Johnson Toribiong (born 1946) but returned as head of state after his 2012 election victory; Remengesau was elected for a further term in 2016.


The Palau judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, the National Court and the Court of Common Pleas. The legal order is based on Anglo-American legal traditions in combination with local legislation and customary law. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of PW and its meanings of Palau. The death penalty does not exist in the penal code.

Heads of State


1993-2001 Kuniwo Nakamura
2001-09 Tommy Remengesau
2009-13 Johnson Toribiong
2013 Tommy Remengesau

History and Politics

Who were the first residents?

It is believed that the first people who settled on the islands of Palau originally came from the Indonesian region, Australia or Polynesia. They settled Palau already 1000 years BC. From the south in a northerly direction.

We don’t know when that was exactly, we can only roughly determine the date on the basis of scientific measurement methods. It is even said that around 60,000 people lived in Rock Islands. Today this is surprising, because when the Europeans came, nobody lived there anymore. Much remains in the dark and we can only speculate.

The discoverer

An explorer from Spain is said to have been the first to sight the islands and the Spaniards first took possession of the islands. A captain from England docked at Palau in 1783 and wanted to give the people of Great Britain the opportunity to settle on these beautiful islands.

At the end of the 19th century there was another interlude of the Spaniards who appropriated the islands as colonies. From 1899 Palau came under the colonial administration of the German Empire and became part of German New Guinea. The Germans bought the islands from the Spaniards. So there was no bloody conquest and no war.

Palau as a German colony

After the purchase of Spain, coconuts continued to be traded. The Spaniards had done that too. There weren’t that many other options on the islands. Palau now belonged to the “Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land” colony, which was named after the then German Kaiser Wilhelm. Some islands belonged to the “Bismarck Archipelago”, which was named after the German Chancellor.

A canal called the German Channel still testifies to the presence of the Germans and was blown between the atolls in order not to have to circumnavigate the waters. This channel cuts through the Rock Islands lagoon.

First and Second World War

During the First World War, Japan occupied Palau and ruled it with the mandate of the League of Nations.

During the Second World War, Palau became important because of its favorable location, as an attack on the Philippines was possible from Palau. For the Americans, the strong position of the Japanese on the islands posed a threat. So at the end of 1944 there was a battle between Japan and the USA. The battle for Palau also went down in history as the “Battle for the Palau Islands”.

After the world wars until today

From 1947 the Palau Islands were controlled by the Americans. Palau did not want to join the “Federated States of Micronesia”, but wanted to become independent. This is what the population decided in 1978.

However, the Republic of Palau did not gain state independence until 1994. Before that, Palau had to defend itself violently against the United States because it wanted to station nuclear weapons in the Palau area. However, in the opinion of its residents, Palau should become a nuclear weapon-free zone. In the end, the Palauers were able to implement this project and received the alternative Nobel Prize for it.

The dependence on the United States remained, however. The US still has a say, especially when it comes to foreign policy, and is also responsible for defending the islands. In return, they support the economically poor Palau, which has only a few sources of income of its own.

Today Palau is a presidential republic, much like the United States of America. The residents of Palau are allowed to travel to and settle in the United States at any time. Many do that too, as further training is difficult, especially for young people in Palau itself.

The old chiefs, who advise the government, have a say in decisions.

Palau Head of Government

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