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State structure

In 1973, the Marshall Islands left the Congress of Micronesia with the intention of becoming fully politically independent. The constitution came into force on 1 May 1979. Like other Trust Territories, the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States. However, almost 90% of the Bikini Atolls voted against it, fearing that the United States would then get out of the compensation and responsibility for cleaning up the Bikini Atoll. The Bikini Atoll had become practically unlivable because of the American nuclear tests.

Nevertheless, the Compact was adopted and came into force in 1986. The government of the Marshall Islands is a combination of the British and American systems. There is one chamber with 33 members, the Nitijela, which meets for a total of 50 days in January and August. Majuro has five seats, Kwajalein three, Ailinglaplap, Arno and Jaluit two each; the other 19 districts have one seat each. From the Nitijela, the president is elected by the other members of parliament. The president appoints his ministers personally. The president is both head of state and head of government. The Nitijela is elected every four years.

President Amata Kabua, who was the first president since 1979, died unexpectedly in December 1996. He was succeeded by his cousin, Imata Kabua, the "iroij" of Kwajalein. There is also the Council of Iroij, consisting of twelve tribal leaders, which has an advisory role. The Marshall Islands have no official provinces or states, but the 24 inhabited atolls each have their own administration headed by a mayor, and they deliver at least one senator to the Nitijela. The capital of the Marshall Islands is D-U-D Municipality, Darrit-Uliga-Delap. Originally these were three islets now connected by a road. For the current political situation see History section.


Education in Micronesia is generally free up to and including high school, but on most islands school is compulsory only until the age of 14. Higher education is only available in the main towns. The only university is the University of Guam, where many students from other islands also study. The largest university in the South Pacific is that of Fiji, with branches on Tarawa, Majuro and Nauru. The university is known for its marine laboratory. Secondary education in the Marshall Islands is limited and admission requirements are tough. There is a College of the Marshall Islands and a teacher training college on Majuro. There is both state-subsidised and private education.


Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. / Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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