Samoa profile

Head of state: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi

Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi 2008 Tupua first entered parliament in 1966

Former prime minister Tupua was elected head of state by parliament for a five-year term in 2007 on the death of paramount chief Malietoa Tanumafili II, who had been in office since independence. With the election of Tupua, Samoa switched from being a constitutional monarchy to being a republic.

Born in 1938, Tupua is an academic historian and a member of one of the leading extended families of the country.

He entered parliament as a Christian Democrat MP in 1966, and served as prime minister in 1976-82 and deputy prime minister in 1985-88.

Prime minister: Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi

Prime Minister Tuila'epa's ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) gained a landslide victory in parliamentary polls in March 2011, heralding a fourth term for the premier.

Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, 2011 Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, in office since 1998

The HRPP won 36 seats out of the 49 available in the Samoan parliament, the Fono. The opposition Tautua Samoa Party (TSP), contesting an election for the first time since its formation in 2008, won the remaining 13 seats.

Mr Tuila'epa won his seat unopposed, despite criticism over the government's handling of a deadly tsunami that struck the country in 2009. However, three of his cabinet ministers lost their seats in the election.

He first became prime minister in 1998 when his predecessor, Tofilau Eti Alesana, resigned on health grounds after 16 years in the job.

Born in 1945 and an economist by training, Mr Tuila'epa was educated in Samoa and New Zealand, where he gained a master's degree - the first Samoan to do so.

In 1978 he moved to Brussels to work for the European Economic Community. He entered the Fono two years later, while simultaneously working as a partner in the accounting firm Coopers and Lybrand.

All but two of the seats in the Fono are reserved for ethnic Samoans and only the heads of extended families, known as "matai", may stand for election to them. The Fono selects the prime minister.

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