Tuvalu is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. Observers judged that parliamentary elections held in 2015 were free and fair, with three new members elected to the 15-member parliament. There are no formal political parties. Parliament selected Enele Sopoaga for a second term as prime minister.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights abuses included criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced; and minimal progress in reducing the worst forms of child labor.
The government took steps to investigate human rights abuses, and impunity was not a problem.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An effective judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Press and Media Freedom: Although there were no government restrictions, the government’s Media Department controlled the country’s sole radio station. There were no local private, independent media to express a variety of views.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. Internet access was available primarily on Funafuti, although connections were slow, expensive, and unreliable. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 49 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
Although the law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government allowed island chiefs to place restrictions on it.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government allows island chiefs to place restrictions on assembly for public worship (see section 2.c.).
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, but the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no reported applications for asylum or refugee status during the year.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: The parliamentary election held in 2015 was generally considered free and fair, with three new members elected to the 15-member parliament. Parliament selected Enele Sopoaga for a second term as prime minister.
Political Parties and Political Participation: There were no formal political parties. Parliament tended to divide itself between an ad hoc faction with at least the minimum eight votes to form a government and an informal opposition faction.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No law limits participation of women in the political process, and they did participate. The 15-member parliament included one woman, who was also a cabinet minister. Nonetheless, participation by women in government and politics was limited. Women held a subordinate societal position, largely due to traditional perceptions of women’s role in society. There were no members of minorities in parliament or the cabinet.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for some forms of corruption by officials such as theft, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were no reports that officials engaged in corrupt practices during the year.
The Office of the Attorney General, police force, ombudsperson, auditor-general, Public Service Commission, and the Central Procurement Unit were responsible for the government’s anticorruption efforts.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure by “leaders,” a term covering public servants and politicians. Enforcement of the code was weak.