The constitution of the Republic of Nauru, adopted at the time of independence and subsequently amended, provides that the republic shall have a parliamentary type of government. It contains provisions for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms—a subject of particular importance because many of the inhabitants are short-term migrants ineligible for citizenship (defined in the constitution as being restricted to those of Nauruan or of Nauruan and Pacific islander parentage). Legislative power is vested in the parliament, composed of 18 members elected for a three-year term by Nauruan citizens who have attained the age of 20 years. Seven of the eight constituencies (representing 10 out of 14 districts) return two members each, and the constituency of Ubenide (representing 4 districts) returns four members. The first woman was elected in 1986.
Executive power is exercised by the president, who also fulfills the residual duties of head of state; he is elected by parliament and is assisted by a cabinet, which he appoints. Hammer DeRoburt became president at independence in 1968 and was reelected in 1971 and 1973. He was defeated for reelection after the legislative voting in 1976, and Bernard Dowiyogo was chosen to succeed him as president. After DeRoburt's supporters forced Dowiyogo's resignation in 1978, DeRoburt again became president. He was reelected in 1980 and in 1983; after the 1983 victory, he persuaded his opponent Dowiyogo to become a cabinet member. In 1986, DeRoburt resigned in protest over opposition to his budget and was replaced by Kennan Adeang; however, DeRoburt's supporters quickly forced Adeang to resign, and DeRoburt was elected again. Because he did not have a clear majority, he called for a new election in 1987 and was reelected decisively. A vote of no confidence forced DeRoburt to resign in August 1989. He was replaced by Kenas Aroi, who then resigned in December 1989 for reasons of ill-health. The December 1989 general election resulted in Bernard Dowiyogo's election to the Presidency. He was reelected President for a second three year term in November 1992, but lost his 1995 bid for reelection to Lagumot Harris. However, a series of no-confidence votes brought seven changes in the presidency over the next five years. The election of April 2000 returned Dowiyago to office, but he was replaced by Rene Harris in March 2001. Harris lost a vote of no-confidence in parliament in January 2003, and as of late February, the question of who would be president of Nauru was unresolved.