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Politics of the Northern Mariana Islands

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Northern Mariana Islands

Politics of the Northern Mariana Islands takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic system, whereby the Governor is head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. The Northern Mariana Islands are a commonwealth in political union with the United States. Executive power is exercised by the governor. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the legislature. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Local government is carried out through three regional mayors.

The Northern Mariana Islands and the United States of America reached a Covenant Agreement which became fully effective on November 4, 1986. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands became effective on January 1, 1978.

Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Governor Eloy Inos Republican Party February 20, 2013
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Torres Republican Party January 12, 2015

Department Level Cabinet Positions

Department Head Political Party Tenure
Department of Finance Secretary Larissa Larson[1]
Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Laura Ogumoro[1]
Department of Labor Secretary Gil M. San Nichols [1]
Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Arnold I. Palacios [1]
Department of Commerce Secretary Sixto K. Igisomar [1]
Department of Corrections Commissioner Ramon C. Mafnas [1]
Department of Public Works Secretary Martin C. Sablan
Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero
Office of the Attorney General Attorney General Joey San Nicolas 2012
Department of Public Lands Secretary Oscar M. Babatua
Office of the Public Defender Public Defender Adam Hardwicke

Sub-cabinet level divisions and offices

Office or division Head Political Party Tenure
Administrative Office Special Assistant for Administration Esther S. Flemings
Public Information and Protocol Office Press Secretary Angel A. Demapan
Liaison Office
Programs and Legislative Review Office Special Assistant Victoria Guerrero

Legislative branch

The Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature has two chambers. The House of Representatives has 20 members, elected for a two-year term from seven districts. The Senate has 9 members, elected for a four-year term in two staggered classes.

Prior to January 2009, the Commonwealth maintained an elected "Resident Representative" in Washington, DC. As authorized by Pub.L. 110–229, the Commonwealth now elects a nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress (similar to other U.S. insular areas). The first election was held on November 4, 2008.

Political parties and elections

 Summary of the 5 November 2005 Northern Mariana Islands Gubernatorial election results
Candidates and nominating parties Votes %
Benigno R. FitialCovenant Party 3,809 28.1
Heinz HofschneiderIndependent 3,710 27.3
Juan BabautaRepublican Party 3,610 26.6
Froilan TenorioDemocratic Party 2,442 18.0
Total 13,517  
 Summary of the 3 November 2007 Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature election results
Parties Seats
House Senate
Republican Party 12
Covenant Party 4 1
Independent 3 2
Democratic Party 1
Not up for election 6
Total 20 9
Source: Marianas Variety

Judicial branch

Commonwealth Supreme Court; Superior Court; Federal District Court

Federal representation

In November 2008, the Northern Mariana Islands held its first election for a delegate to the United States Congress. Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan won the election, and began his term of office in January 2009.[2] The delegate serves as a member to some House committees and may vote in those committees, but the delegate is not permitted to vote on bills up for vote among all members of the House.

International organization participation

ESCAP (associate), INTERPOL (subbureau), SPC

Political culture

Historically the Northern Mariana Islands have been subject to the colonizing powers of Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States under a United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Agreement. Each power contributed elements that mixed with local indigenous cultures to form the current political culture of the Northern Mariana Islands.

When United States citizenship was granted in 1986 to people who qualified as descendants of the Northern Marianas, few among the island's native population had been adequately prepared for democracy. As a result, politics in the Northern Mariana Islands is often "more a function of family relationships and personal loyalties" where the size of one's extended family is more important than a candidate's personal qualifications. Both scholarly works and the authors of the controversial website charge that this is nepotism carried out within the trappings of democracy.[3][4]


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