Palau’s closest and largest neighbour to the west is the Philippines and this is where the first migrants probably came from around 3,000 years ago.
In the 18th Century British traders arrived and in the 19th century it was the turn of the Spanish. In 1899 Spain sold the island along with the rest of the Caroline Islands to the Germans. They remained until 1914 when the Japanese took control of the island.
In World War Two the island was the scene of a vicious two month battle in 1944 between the Americans and the Japanese. The Japanese lost over 10,000 soldiers and the Americans lost around 2,000 but it was the Americans who prevailed.
In 1947 the United Nations granted the islands to the United States of America as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1978 Palau opted to go for independence and on 1st January 1981 it gained independence and its first constitution was passed.
Palau doesn’t have political parties. One or two have started up in the past but none have lasted and the island of around 21,000 people vote freely for a collection of independent candidates. That does not mean to say that there hasn’t been political drama; in 1985 the first President, Haruo I. Remeliik, was assassinated and in 1988 the third president, Lazarus Salii, committed suicide after being accused of corruption.
In 1994 the island voted to freely associate with the United States of America whilst retaining its independence under the Compact of Free Association.
In 1998 the Senate passed a law which made Palau an ‘offshore’ financial centre.
The President and Vice President are elected on separate tickets by popular vote for four year terms.
The bicameral parliament has a Senate with 13 members elected by popular vote on a population basis to serve four year terms. The House of Delegates has 16 members elected by popular vote to serve four year terms.