The Malta independence constitution came to force on 21 September 1964. Ten years later, Malta became a republic, while remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations. The unicameral parliament, the House of Representatives, consists of 65 members elected for a five-year term by universal adult suffrage (18 years of age and over), under a system of proportional representation. Additional seats may be allocated until a majority of one seat is obtained.
The House elects the head of state, the president of the republic, who holds office for five years. The president appoints the prime minister and, on the latter's advice, the other members of the cabinet. The prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party, is responsible for general direction and control of the government.