Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) held parliamentary elections in March 2013 that were considered free and fair.
FSM has been embroiled in controversy over the government’s attempts to build a 10,000-room casino, entertainment, hotel, golf, and convention complex to attract tourists and bolster the economy. The project is unpopular; many citizens have cited concerns about its size, consumption of water and other resources, and the social effects of the casino. A Chinese consortium was tapped to build the project, though the head of the company was one of several prominent Chinese businessmen to disappear unexpectedly amid an investigation into corruption allegations.
Political Rights: 37 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12
FSM’s unicameral, 14-member Congress has one directly elected representative serving four-year terms from each of the four constituent states. The other 10 representatives are directly elected for two-year terms from single-member districts. Chuuk state, home to nearly half of the total population, holds the largest number of congressional seats, which has been a source of resentment among the three smaller states. The president and vice president are chosen by Congress from among the four state representatives to serve four-year terms. By informal agreement, the two posts are rotated among the representatives of the four states. Each state has its own constitution, elected legislature, and governor; the state governments have considerable power, particularly in budgetary matters. Traditional leaders and institutions exercise significant influence in society, especially at the village level.
In the March 2013 elections, voters selected representatives for the country’s 10 elected congressional seats among 21 candidates. The elections were generally deemed free and fair. Both President Emanuel Mori and Vice President Alik L. Alik were reelected in 2011.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 15 / 16
There are no formal political parties, but there are no restrictions on their formation. Political loyalties are based mainly on geography, clan relations, and personality. All candidates ran as independents in the 2013 elections.
FSM relies heavily on economic and defense assistance from the United States for about a third of its revenue. This assistance, provided under a Compact of Free Association, also gives FSM citizens visa-free entry to the United States for education, work, and social services. In exchange, the United States maintains military bases in the islands. The current compact ends in 2023. China has also become an important donor to FSM, and Chinese aid has financed many local projects.
C. Functioning of Government: 10 / 12
Official corruption is a problem and a major source of public discontent. To meet U.S. demand for transparency and accountability in the use of compact funds, a new tracking system was adopted in 2009. In 2012, lawmakers passed legislation to improve the efficiency of the tax collection system and acceded to the U.N. Convention against Corruption. Nevertheless, a 2012 public auditor report found many fundamental weaknesses in the public payroll system, such as paychecks still going to employees who had been dismissed and overpayment for unauthorized work hours.
Civil Liberties: 56 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16
The news media operate freely. Print outlets include government-published newsletters and several small, privately owned weekly and monthly newspapers. Each state government runs its own radio station, and the Baptist church runs a fifth station. Television stations operate in three of the four states. Cable television is available in Pohnpei and Chuuk, and satellite television is increasingly common. Internet use is growing, but low income and small populations make it difficult for service providers to expand coverage.
Religious freedom is respected. There are no reports of restrictions on academic freedom, but lack of funds negatively affects the quality of and access to education.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12
Freedom of assembly is respected, and citizens are free to organize civic groups. Several student and women’s organizations are active. No labor unions exist, though there are no laws against their formation. No specific laws regulate work hours or set workplace health and safety standards. The right to strike and bargain collectively is not legally recognized.
F. Rule of Law: 15 / 16
The judiciary is independent, but lacks funds to improve functioning of the courts. The small national police force is responsible for local law enforcement, while the U.S. provides for national defense. There are no reports of abuses or inhumane treatment by police or prison officials.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 14 / 16
Women enjoy equal rights under the law, including those regarding property ownership and employment, though social and economic discrimination against women persists in a male-dominated culture. Although well represented in the lower and middle ranks of the state and federal governments, there are no women in Congress. A constitutional amendment passed in 2012 created four new congressional seats to be reserved for women, but it had not come into effect as of the 2013 elections. Domestic violence is a problem, and cases often go unreported because of family pressure or an expectation of inaction by the authorities. Offenders rarely face trial, and those found guilty usually receive light sentences.
Micronesia is a source country for women trafficked into prostitution. The Human Trafficking Act of 2012 made all trafficking activities in the FSM or by FSM nationals a criminal offense. Also in 2012, lawmakers approved FSM’s accession to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
Same-sex relations are legal but there are no legal protections against discrimination or hate crimes.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year