Since independence in 1978, Solomon Islands has modeled the Westminster (British-style) system of government. The British monarch serves as head of state, and there is a unicameral parliament made up of 50 members (MPs) elected by voters over 21 years of age at least every 4 years. Each electoral constituency is represented by the MP who gains the most votes. The prime minister is elected by majority vote in parliament.
There is considerable fluidity in the party system, and parties have formed and reformed both during and between elections. Since independence in 1978, most governments have been coalitions, with the prime minister representing the party that gained the most votes in an election.
There are 9 provinces (Choiseul, Western, Isabel, Central, Rennell-Bellona, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, and Temotu) and 1 Town Council (Honiara). Each has its own elected members and has authority over various aspects of development, including parts of the education, health, and transport systems. In response to ethnic tensions in 1999 and 2000, the central government has worked to increase the powers of the provincial governments.
Since the Solomon Islands has about 80 distinctive language groups, political parties have usually attempted to attract members and appoint cabinet ministers from various parts of the country in the interests of ethnic diversity. However, some degree of ethnic tension has persisted, and there have been calls for regional independence. In 1999 these tensions came to a head when the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army attacked settlers from the neighboring island of Malaita who had settled on Guadalcanal, amid fears that Malaitans were beginning to dominate the government and parts of the economy. In early 2000, the Malaitan Eagle Force took over the capital, forced out most Guadalcanalese and essentially overthrew the government. In October 2000 a peace settlement was signed, and international monitors arrived, mainly from Australia and New Zealand. By early 2001, there had been only minor breaches of the agreement.
Before the ethnic tension, the government had embarked on a modest restructuring program that involved some cutbacks in government expenditure, especially by reducing the number of civil servants. This was partly a response to high levels of government debt, and major fluctuations in revenue as a result of varying levels of exports and commodity prices. During the tension, the government approached insolvency (an inability to pay its debts), but was rescued by international aid, especially from the Republic of China (Taiwan). During this period, aid from Australia and New Zealand was channeled into peacekeeping activities.
The major sources of government tax revenue are customs revenue and inland (internal) revenue, which in 1997 accounted for about equal amounts of the total. Customs revenue is also equally divided between import taxes and export taxes, particularly on logs. Inland revenue originates from personal taxes, business taxes, and from other sources. A relatively small proportion of inland revenue is derived from individual income tax since only a small proportion of the population works in the paid labor force .