The area of the Pacific Ocean now known as Kiribati was first colonised by Europeans in the 16th Century. By 1892 it had become the British Protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and in 1916 became part of a larger group of islands known as the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT).
In 1942 part of the group of islands was taken over by the Japanese and in 1943 the allies started their advance against the Japanese in the region.
Part of the group of islands became the independent Tuvalu in 1975 and the group of islands now known as Kiribati gained its independence on 12th July 1979.
Since independence there have been ten general elections and for much of that time Independents have ruled in the parliament which has expanded from an original 35 seats to 42 seats in the House of Assembly.
In recent years there have been two loose political formations, Pillars of Truth (Boutokaan Te Koaua) with its leader Anote Tong winning the 2003 presidential election and re-elected in 2007.
The other loose political party is Protect the Maneaba (Maneaban Te Mauri) who supported President Teburoro Tito who was elected in 1994 with the backing of the Christian Democratic Party and remained in power until 2003.
The President is elected for a four year term by popular vote.
The legislature has 44 members elected for four years, plus one ex officio member (the Attorney-General) and one nominated member from the Banaban community in Rabi, Fiji, who have a right to enter and live on Banaba, and have their own Banaba Island Council.