Apisai Ielemia (born 19 August 1955) is a Tuvaluan politician. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Tuvalu from 2006 to 2010, and was returned as a member of parliament in the Tuvaluan general election, 2010. He was re-elected to parliament in the Tuvaluan general election, 2015. On 5 October 2016 Chief Justice Sweeney of the High Court of Tuvalu declared that Ielemia’s parliamentary seat was vacant as he was no longer qualified to be a member of parliament, as the consequence of the short time the opposition MP served time in jail following his conviction on 6 May 2016 in the Magistrate’s Court of charges of abuse of office during the final year of his term as Prime Minister (August 2006 to September 2010). The abuse of office charges related to payments deposited into a National Bank of Tuvalu personal account. The October 2016 decision of the Chief Justice was controversial as it appeared to contradict the June 2016 decision of Justice Norman Franzi of the High Court of Tuvalu that had quashed Ielemia’s conviction and acquitted him of the abuse of office charges. The appeal to the High Court held that the conviction was “manifestly unsafe,” with the court quashing the 12-month jail term. Ielemia said he still considers himself to be a member of parliament. Ielemia is challenging the decision of Sweeney CJ in the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu in 2017.
Ielemia was elected to serve in the Parliament of Tuvalu by the constituency of Vaitupu on a non-partisan basis: his lack of alignment is not unusual in the politics of Tuvalu, since political parties have not emerged in the country.
In general elections held on 3 August 2006 prime minister Maatia Toafa's government was defeated and Ielemia was elected by the new parliament on 14 August to become the new prime minister. He also became foreign minister.
Ielemia has continued Tuvalu's pursuit of close relations with the Republic of China, and in December 2007 visited that country, where various bilateral issues were addressed. He gained a higher international profile during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen by highlighting the dangers of rising sea levels. In September 2008 Ielemia and the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, attended a conference to improve relations with Cuba.
In a country which had in recent years seen frequent changes of government through the use of the parliamentary no confidence device, Ielemia's government, in office since 2006, seemed at the beginning of 2009 to offer somewhat of a rarity: the prospect of a government of Tuvalu running its full course. Prior to Ielemia's appointment as Prime Minister, the average length of Prime Ministerial terms of office had been considerably shorter; this history underscored the relative stability of his government, and by extension, the underlying parliamentary system which supported it.
Ielemia was one of 10 MPs who were re-elected to parliament in the 2010 general election.
As of September 2006, the government of Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia consisted of the following members:Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources: Hon. Tavau Teii – represents Niutao
House Speaker: Hon. Sir Kamuta Latasi – represents Funafuti
Minister of Home Affairs: Hon. Willy Telavi – represents Nanumea
Minister of Finance & Economic Planning: Hon. Lotoala Metia – represents Nukufetau
Minister of Public Works, Water & Energy: Hon. Kausea Natano – represents Funafuti
Minister of Communications, Transportation & Tourism: Hon. Taukelina Finikaso – represents Vaitupu
Minister of Education, Youth & Sports: Hon Falesa Pitoi – represents Nanumaga
Minister of Health: Hon. Iakoba Italeli – represents Nui
Chairman of the Caucus: Hon. Sir Tomu Sione – represents Niutao
Following the general election held on 16 September 2010 Maatia Toafa was elected as prime minister with the support of five new members of parliament and three members that had supported Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia, this resulted in an 8:7 majority in the parliament.
However, on 15 December 2010 Prime Minister Maatia Toafa's government was ousted in a vote of no confidence and Willy Telavi was elected to the premiership by a slender majority in Parliament (8:7). Ielemia was among Telavi's supporters, and was appointed to Telavi's Cabinet as Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment, Trade, Labour and Tourism.
Following Prime Minister Telavi's removal by Governor General Sir Iakoba Italeli on 1 August 2013 in the context of a political crisis (Telavi had sought to govern without the support of Parliament), Ielemia and the rest of Cabinet were voted out of office a day later following the no confidence motion.