Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor
Prime minister: Willy Telavi
Willy Telavi was elected prime minister in December 2010, replacing Maatia Toafa, who had been ousted by no-confidence vote after only three months in power.
Mr Telavi's government faced an early challenge when protests were held demanding the resignation of Finance Minister Lotoala Metia. It responded with a temporary ban on public gatherings.
Maatia Toafa had become PM after general elections in September, succeeding Apisai Ielemia, but lost his majority when Mr Telavi, then home affairs minister, and two other MPs withdrew their support and joined the opposition.
The move was reportedly prompted by dissatisfaction with the government's budget, especially plans to stop funding the medical costs of patients seeking treatment abroad.
Mr Telavi used his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2011 to point out that the global financial crisis had had a particularly severe effect on Tuvalu's economy, forcing the government to cut basic services.
He noted that as a least developed country, Tuvalu was highly vulnerable to global economic shocks, as well as the impact of climate change, and he called on all major greenhouse gas emitting nations to take urgent action on emissions.
Hailing from Nanumea, the northwesternmost of Tuvalu's islands, Mr Telavi is a career policeman, and served as Tuvalu's police commissioner from 1993-2009.
He was elected to parliament and appointed home affairs minister in Apisai Ielemia's new government in 2006, retaining the position under Maatia Toafa.
Tuvalu has no political parties. Allegiances revolve around personalities and geography. The 15-member parliament is popularly elected every four years. The prime minister is chosen by MPs.