The Government System of the Federated States of Micronesia
Post author By Charlie February 18, 2022
The Government System of the Federated States of
The Federated States of Micronesia, or more simply, Micronesia (not to be confused with
the subregion), is a country made up of a grouping of more than 600 islands that are
spread across the western Pacific Ocean, the country is a federation of four island states
which are Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, and Yap. The capital city Palikir is located on
Pohnpei. Nearby countries and territories include the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and the
Northern Mariana Islands and Guam (both US territories), the Solomon Islands, Palau,
and Papua New Guinea. The islands are part of Oceania within the subregion of
Micronesia and a part of the Caroline Islands grouping. Although total land area is small,
territorial waters and exclusive economic zone are large due to the spread of the
Austronesian ancestors to the Micronesians first settled in the area over four millennia
ago. The earliest form of government was a decentralized chieftain-based system that
eventually became a economic and religious culture that was more centralized on what is
today Pohnpei. It is known that people from the Caroline Islands as a whole made regular
contact with the Chamorro on what is today the Marianas Islands (a US territory), and on
rare occasions voyaged to the eastern islands of the Philippines.
Pohnpei’s pre-colonial history is divided into three periods, the Period of Building/Peopling
before 1100, the Period of the Lord of Deleur (Saudeluer Dynasty) from 1100 to 1628, and
then the Period of the Nahnmwarki from 1628 until 1885. The legend of Pohnpei says that
the Saudeluer rulers were of foreign origin and were the first to bring government to the
island, bringing a centralized form of absolute rule which legend says became
increasingly oppressive over a number of generations. This dynasty ruled from Nan
Madol, offshore from Temwen Island close to Pohnpei, it consisted of a number of small
artificial islands linked by a network of canals, giving it the modern nickname of the
Venice of the Pacific.
The arbitrary and onerous demands and reputation for offending Pohnpei’s deities led to
the sowing of much resentment towards them from the indigenous population. Legend
tells of a semi-mythical foreigner from the island of Kosrae (today one of the four island
states) called Isokelekel invaded and conquered Pohnpei, putting an end to the dynasty
and establishing a more decentralized nahnmwarki tribal and social system, which
tradition still keeps today. Nan Madol was apparently occupied by Isokelekel and his
descendants for a time, but was eventually abandoned, today it is an archaeological
The island of Yap, one of the other current federal islands today, had created a socio-
economic and political relationships with nearby islands to the east and southwest from
1500 BC and this became known as the Yapese Empire. The empire was small and
rather informal, and had developed from the chief village of Gatchaper, the empire
provided maritime trade and a political network with smaller atolls and islands between
Yap and Chuuk, which came to expand around 1,500km of the western Pacific Ocean.
The empire demanded tribute be given to the paramount chief of Gagil (a municipality) in
Gatchaper, such as coconut rope and oil, mats, and shells. These tributes were not one-
sided and in return Gagil provided mutual support of goods and assistance for natural
disaster. Those on Yap Island used a primitive currency called rai stones, quarried from
Palau and carved from crystalline calcite, they are still traditionally used today for cultural
Traditional society on Yap included multiple villages and municipalities and was highly
feudal in its nature, power was decentralized and allocated through the municipalities
rather than being concentrated from a single authority. A social caste system also existed
(and even still traditionally exists today). This caste system included those seen as pure,
with chiefs at the top followed by nobles and commoners, and then those seen as impure
which included servants and serfs, this is just a basic example and the systems varied
from village to village.
Class ranking of villages within municipalities were shaped around their military victories
while villages also had their own internal classes, these class systems determined who
and what villages were under the authority of which higher classed villages, one of the
high-ranked villages was Gatchaper for obvious reason. This system meant that wars
between villages and municipalities was very common and would not end until the 20th
Century where German occupiers pacified the islands, putting in place a prohibition
against violent conflicts, and as such the class and caste systems froze in place.
The Europeans would arrive in the 16th Century, first the Portuguese who stumbled upon
the Carolines while searching for the Spice Islands. The Spanish were next to come to
the Carolines and they established sovereignty over them, bringing them under the
Captaincy General of the Philippines and making them a part of the Spanish East Indies
within their Empire.
The Spanish Empire held the islands until 1899 where they sold the islands to Imperial
Germany via the German-Spanish Treaty following the Spanish-American War. Imperial
Germany made them a part of German New Guinea and also made efforts to intervene in
the affairs of the islands, such as via the previously mentioned prohibition of violent
conflicts, they also tried to reorganize the traditional social hierarchy and institute forced
labour for construction, which resulted in the Sokehs Rebellion in 1910, the Germans
eventually restored order and exiled all of the Sokeh tribal members.
The island of Yap became a major German naval communications center prior to the First
World War, and also became an important international hub for cable telegraphy. The
Japanese occupied the island and other German possessions in the area during the First
World War and following the war the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 gave the islands to
Imperial Japan as a mandated territory under League of Nations supervision, it was called
the South Seas Mandate. The US also concluded a treaty with Imperial Japan in 1922
that gave them commercial rights to the island.
During this time the Japanese population throughout Micronesia would grow to 100,000,
making the indigenous populations a minority, and things like sugar cane, mining, fishing
and tropical agriculture formed major industries. World War 2 would lead to the Japanese
losing the islands, and one of the most important naval battles in the Pacific took place at
Truk Lagoon, known as Operation Hailstone, an American victory. Truuk is now called
Chuuk and is one of the four island states.
Following the Second World War the United Nations created the Trust Territory of the
Pacific Islands in 1947 which as well as including the islands that would become the
federated states, also included Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana
Islands, which the US accepted Trusteeship of. Thankfully the federated states shall
avoid any of the US’s nuclear/hydrogen bomb testing.
In May 1979 four of the Trust Territory districts came together and ratified a constitution
that created the Federated States of Micronesia and gave them independence, with
Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Mariana Islands choosing not to participate. The
Federated States signed the Compact of Free Association with the US, under which they
provide the defense of the islands, and also economic support amongst other assistance.
Like many other low-lying tropical islands in the Pacific, the country’s existence is
threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change.
The official language is English but four regional languages are also recognised,
Chuukese, Kosraean, Pohnpeian, and Yapese. The two largest ethnic groups by far are
Chuukese followed by Pohnpeian, other significant groups are Kosraean, Yapese, Outer
Yapese, Asian, and Polynesian, but there are also many other minority ethnic groups. The
largest religion is Christianity, with Roman Catholic being the largest, although there are
significant numbers of Protestants, at least 4% are known to also practice folk religions.
The country does not have its own official currency and instead uses the US Dollar as
legal tender. Its population is over 116,820.
Seal of the Federated States of Micronesia. Public Domain.
For the ease of things, I am just going to say Micronesia from here on out. Micronesia is a
federal parliamentary representative democratic republic. There is a President who is
both Head of State and Head of the Federal Government. There is a unicameral body
called the Congress of the Federation which has been non-partisan in nature since its
existence and makes up the federal legislative government. Although multiple political
parties are allowed, none have been created or elected to the Federal Congress.
The Federation is made up of four island states that have their own constitution (which
must be a democratic one) and elected Governors, governments, and legislatures, island
states have reserved areas over certain types of legislation, governance, cultural affairs
and more. The island state of Chuuk is scheduled to hold an independence referendum
sometime next month (originally meant to be held in 2015 and then 2019 but delayed
both times) so it is possible Chuuk may end up becoming independent. The US has aired
its concerns over the possibility of Chuuk becoming independent, due to the potential for
Chinese influence and exploitation.
Territory can be added to Micronesia upon approval of the Federal Congress, and by vote
of inhabitants in the area (if there are any), and by vote of the people of Micronesia as
well. If the territory is becoming a part of an existing island State’s territory, then the
approval of that state’s legislature is also required.
The constitution provides protections for cultural traditions and traditional cultural leaders.
Article V Section 1 says that nothing in the Constitution takes away a role or function of a
traditional leader as recognised by custom and tradition, or prevents a traditional leader
from being recognised, honored, and given formal or functional roles at any level of
Section 2 says traditions may be protected by Statute, and if challenged as violative
under Article IV, protection of Micronesian tradition is to be considered a compelling social
purpose warranting such governmental action.
Section 3 also allows the Federal Congress to establish a Chamber of Chiefs that
consists of traditional leaders from each island State that has such leaders, and for States
with no such leaders they would instead elect representatives to this chamber. Island
State constitutions may also an active, functional role for traditional leaders.
This post is solely focusing on the federal governance of the country as a whole.
The Executive Government
Current President of the Federated States of Micronesia, David W. Panuelo. Photo in the
The President is both Head of State and Head of the Federal (national) Government.
There is a Vice-President who assists the President in their duties. If the Presidency
becomes vacant then the Vice-President assumes the office for the remainder of the
term. The Vice-President also acts in the office of President when the President is
Presidential Duties and Responsibilities
The President is charged with faithfully executing and implementing the provisions of the
Federal Constitution and national laws.
The President receives ambassadors and conducts foreign affairs and the national
defense in accordance with the law.
The President can grant pardons and reprieves. (Governors can also do this concurrently
for those convicted of State crimes).
On advice and with the consent of the Federal Congress the President appoints
ambassadors; judges of the Supreme Court and other courts prescribed by statute; the
principal officers of executive departments in the national government; and such other
officers as may be provided by statute.
Principal officers and secretaries of departments of Government make up the Cabinet of
the National Government which is its highest decision-making body of the Federal
Government, overseen by the President. It also includes the Postmaster General, Chief
Public Defender, and Director of the National Archives, Culture and Historic Preservation
The President can make recommendations to Congress, and makes an annual report for
Congress on the state of the nation.
The President submits an annual Budget to the Federal Congress. The Congress may
alter this Budget.
The Departments of Government
As it stands there are 8 Secretaries that lead Departments of the Federal Government.
The Departments of Health and Social Affairs.
The Department of Justice
The Department of Education
The Department of Environment and Emergency Management
The Department of Foreign Affairs
The Department of Resource and Development
The Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure
The Department of Finance and Administration
Removal of the President and other Officials
The President, Vice-President, or Justice of the Supreme Court can be removed from
office for the reason of treason, bribery, and in conduct involving corruption in office.
Removal requires a 2/3 majority vote in the Federal Congress.
When the President or Vice-President is removed from office, the decision for this will be
reviewed by the Supreme Court.
When a Justice of the Supreme Court is removed from office, this decision will be
reviewed by a special tribunal convened by the President, the special tribunal is
composed of one state court judge from each State appointed by the Chief Executive
(Governor) of the State.
If needed for the preservation of public peace, health, or safety at times of extreme
emergency caused by civil disturbance, natural disaster, immediate threat of war, or
insurrection, the President may declare a State of Emergency giving him the ability to
issue appropriate decrees.
Civil rights can only be impaired to the extent required for preservation and control of the
previously mentioned things. A State of Emergency cannot impair the power of the
judiciary, although the declaration is free from judicial interference for at least 30-days
after its declaration.
Within 30-days after the declaration of the State of Emergency, the Federal Congress
convenes either at the call of the President or its presiding officer. The Congress
considers revocation, amendment, and/or extension of the State of Emergency. By
default, a State of Emergency ends in 30-days unless extended by vote of the
Other Bodies and Offices
There is a Supreme Court. It is the highest court of the country. It is made up of a Chief
Justice and not more than five associative Justices, all of whom are appointed by the
President with the 2/3 majority approval of the Federal Congress.
Trial division of Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction in cases
affecting officials of foreign governments, disputes between States, admiralty or
maritime cases, and in cases where the national government is a party excluding
cases where interest in land is at issue.
National courts, including trial division of the Supreme Court, have concurrent
original jurisdiction in cases arising from the Constitution; national law or treaties;
and disputes between a State and a citizen of another State, between citizens of
different States, and between a State or a citizen thereof, and a foreign state,
citizen, or subject.
In cases where jurisdiction is concurrent, a Statute can determine the proper court.
May review cases when requiring interpretation of the Constitution, national law, or
Deals with appeals.
There is a Public Auditor. They are appointed by the President with the advice and
consent of the Federal Congress. Serves for a term of 4-years. They are independent of
administrative control. They can be removed from obvious for a defined cause by the
Federal Congress voting by at least 2/3 of all members to do so.
If the Public Auditor is removed from office the Chief Justice will appoint an Acting Public
Auditor until a new Public Auditor is appointed in the usual manner.
This person is in charge of…
Inspecting and auditing accounts in every branch, department, agency or statutory
authority of the national Government and in other public legal entities or nonprofit
organisations that receive public funds from the national Government.
Reports once per year to the Federal Congress.
There is a Development Bank. It is headed by a President/CEO. This bank is a
subcomponent of the National Government.
This bank is mandated to…
Organise additional financial resources for development both within and outside of
Provision of short, medium and long-term loans for projects, with a focus on needs
of the country.
Provision of assistance and services for identification and formulation of projects
and provision of investment studies.
Administers trust funds and special funds available to the country on a grant or loan
Fosters economic activities and cooperates with other lending institutions within and
outside of the country, supporting activities in the country’s development.
There is a Postmaster General. The head the Postal Services a national government
This person and agency…
Primarily provides and delivers postal operations and services, sells stamps, and
other philatelic products.
There is a National Fisheries Corporation. It is headed by a CEO/President.
Main purpose is to promote the development of pelagic fisheries and its related
industries for the benefit of the people of the country.
Aims to develop commercial tuna fisheries on its own, with individual State entities,
and through foreign interest via joint ventures.
There is a National Oceanic Resource Management Authority. It is headed by an
Executive Director. The Board of Directors of this body are appointed by the President
subject to advice and consent of the Federal Congress. Four of the members are
appointed after consultations with the four States, while another is appointed at-large.
Members serve 2-year terms.
Its purpose is…
To be an effective guardian and manager of marine resources in the country’s
Exclusive Economic Zone.
Ensures resources are used in a sustainable way.
Aims to obtain the maximum sustainable economic benefits from such resources.
Promotes economic security of the country through usage of these resources.
There is a Social Security Administration. It is led by an Administrator.
Deals with management and provision of monetary benefits/welfare.
There is a Telecommunications Corporation. It is led by a President/CEO.
Manages and deals with phone, wireless, internet and cable services.
There is a National Archives, Culture and Historic Preservation Office. It is led by a
Aims to strengthen unity through protection and preservation of cultural heritage.
Cultivates public participation and democracy through public access, drives
participation in the preservation process.
Assists in identification, maintenance of sites, and objects of historical significance
within the country.
The Legislative Government
There is literally no picture I can use for this, so this is the best I could come up with. Image
by Arek Socha from Pixabay
There is a unicameral Congress called the Congress of the Federation which is a 14-
member body. It legislates on the federal level in areas provided for by the Federal
Constitution. Since there are currently no political parties the Congress is seen as non-
partisan, although familial factors can play a role, but there is also a general non-partisan
focus around island-issues. The job of Congress is to legislate and to supervise
To pass legislation it must pass two readings, the first needing the agreement of at least
2/3 of all members, and then the second reading must be passed via state delegation,
casting one vote each, and needing the 2/3 vote of all state delegations. The President of
the Republic must then approve the bill for it to enter law. If the President rejects the bill,
he/she must return it to Congress within 10-days (or if Congress has 10 or less days
remaining in its session or is adjourned, within 30-days) with the relevant objections. If the
President does not act within the appropriate period on a passed bill, then it automatically
enters into law.
The President’s veto of the bill can be overridden by the 2/3 vote of the state delegations
in Congress and the bill can then enter into law.
A majority of members must be present to form a quorum and conduct usual business. A
smaller number of members may still adjourn from day to day and compel the attendance
of members who are absent.
The areas that are legislated on by this Congress are the provision of national defense;
the ratification of treaties that have been put together by the federal Government; the
regulation of immigration, emigration, naturalization and citizenship; imposition of taxes,
duties, and tariffs based on imports; imposition of taxes on income; issuing and regulation
of currency; regulation of banking, foreign and interstate commerce, insurance, issuance
and usage of commercial paper and securities, bankruptcy and insolvency, and patents
and copyrights; regulation of navigation and shipping excluding in lagoons, lakes and
rivers; establishment of usury limits on major loans; provision of national postal system;
acquisition and governance of any new territory; and governance of the area set aside as
the national capital.
As well as that the Congress also regulates the ownership, exploration, and exploitation
of natural resources in its marine space; handles establishment and regulation of national
public service system; power to impeach officials such as the President, Vice-President,
and Justices of the Supreme Court; definition of national crimes and prescribing of their
penalties, with regard to local custom and tradition; overriding presidential vetoes via the
Also promotes education and health by setting minimum standards, coordination of state
activities that relate to foreign assistance, and provision of training and assistance to
The Congress works together with the Island States on appropriation of public funds; the
borrowing of money on public credit; and establishment of systems of social security and
When it comes to the ratification of treaties it must be done via at least a 2/3 majority of
members. And, any treaty that delegates major powers from the federal Government to
another Government must get majority approval from State legislatures of at least 2/3 of
the Island States.
National taxes are imposed in a uniform manner, so not less than 50% of the revenues
shall be paid into the treasury of the State where collected. Net revenue from ocean floor
mineral resources must also be divided equally between the federal Government and the
appropriate State government.
Special sessions of Congress can either be convened at the call of the President of the
Republic, or by the individual who is presiding over the Congress if compelled to do so by
at least 2/3 of the members in written form.
The Congress is the sole judge on elections and qualifications of its members. Congress
can discipline its members and can also suspend or expel a member with agreement of at
least 2/3 of all members. Congress can determine its own rules and procedures and also
elects its presiding officer from among themselves.
The Congress has the power to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and
the production of documents or other matters before Congress or any of its committees.
The Electoral System
Again, not really a photo that I can use here that exists, so just enjoy this photo from the
island. It is in the Public Domain.
Presidential Elections take place every 4-years and the President (and Vice-President)
is elected by the Federal Congress from among its own members via a majority vote. One
person cannot serve more than two consecutive terms as President. Those elected will
vacate their seats in the Congress.
Apparently only two of the 4 members of the Congress who have been elected at-large
from one of the four island States are chosen as President and Vice-President according
to the Freedom House report on Micronesia from 2021.
The President and Vice-President must have been a member of Congress for at least 4-
years, must be a citizen of the country by birth, and have been resident in the country for
at least 15-years. The Vice-President must be resident in a different State to the
Congressional Elections happen biennially (every 2-years) as provided for by Statute,
but not all members are put up for election. As it currently stands 10 of the 14-members
are elected every 2-years while the other 4-members are elected every 4-years. The 10-
members with 2-year terms are elected from single-seat-constituencies, their size and
placement based on population factors. The 4-members who have 4-year terms are
elected at-large, one from each Island State for reasons of Island State equality. Members
from single-seat constituencies are elected via the first-past-the-post system where only a
simple majority is required to win. The four at-large members are elected using
Chuuk being the most populous has five of the 10 population-based seats, followed by
Pohnpei with three, and then Yap and Kosrae with one each. Reapportionment takes
place at least every 10-years based on any population changes. States themselves
apportion their constituencies, with each constituency being as close to equal population
as possible while also taking into account language, culture, and geographic differences.
Those elected to the Congress must be at least 30-years-old, have been a citizen of the
country for at least 15-years, and a resident of the State they were elected from for at
least 5-years. Although the Constitution says those convicted of a felony by a State or
national government court is ineligible to be elected, the Constitution has allowed
Congress the option to change this (so it is possible they may have). Congress can also
prescribe additional qualifications via legislation, although knowledge of the English
language cannot be made a qualification.
Members of Congress cannot also hold another public office or employment. Also, during
their term and for 3-years afterwards, a member cannot be elected or appointed to a
public office or employment created by national statute during their term. Members cannot
engage in any activity which conflicts with the proper discharge of their duties. Congress
can also legislate for further restrictions in this area.
Under Article IX, Section 11 of the Constitution a State is allowed to provide that one of its
congressional seats be set aside for a traditional leader (also holding a 2-year term) in
place of a representative elected on the basis of population.
When there is a vacancy in Congress, unless otherwise provided for by a Statute of
Congress, a special election will fill the vacancy unless it is 1-year before elections which
in that case the State’s Governor would appoint someone to the vacancy to hold it up until
To vote in national elections one must be a citizen of the Federated States of Micronesia
who is at least 18-years-old. The Federal Congress legislates a minimum period of
residence before being able to vote, as well as on disqualification from voting due to
reasons of crime conviction, mental incompetence or insanity. Voting is not compulsory.
The source for this post comes from Micronesia (Federated States of)’s Constitution of
1978 with amendments through to 1990 (constituteproject.org). According to the CIA
World Factbook page on this country the Constitution has been amended numerous times
since then (last apparently in 2019) but unfortunately information on these amendments
seems scarce or impossible to find. A lot of things are also simply included in the
country’s law code rather than the Constitution.
One of the articles I did find says that previous amendments have focused on
jurisdictional issues between island States and government, land ownership, and dual
I did find this about making it so there is less of a majority needed for constitutional
amendments (changing it from needing ¾ to 2/3 of the vote cast on the amendment in
each of ¾ of the States), but it is unclear if this has been adopted yet, there is apparently
meant to be some referendum on it this year if it has not already taken place.
This is why it is very important to do cross research if using this seriously as information
on this post may be outdated. Plus, there is always the chance I misinterpreted or missed
some things and amendments may happen in the future as well. It must also be reminded
I do this as a hobby and I am not an expert. A lot of additional information can be found
here for cross-research (this is the code of the country, probably outdated though, but a
lot of it is likely still relevant).
Amendments to the Constitution can be proposed by a constitutional convention, popular
initiative, or by the Federal Congress. Proposed amendments become part of the
Constitution if it receives at least ¾ or 2/3 (depending on if the aforementioned change
has been adopted yet) of the votes cast in at least ¾ of the States.
Constitutional Conventions are proposed at least every 10-years on whether there should
be an amendment to the Constitution. If a majority vote yes then a Constitutional
Convention will take place. Delegates from each Island State are elected to this
convention, the number of delegates an island State gets is determined by population
size, meaning Chuuk have the most. The last Constitutional Convention took place in
Next up will be the government system of Moldova.
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