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Politics and government in the World of Avatar vary significantly between the different nations. There are five basic types of political systems, each of which has a distinctive character that corresponds with the element or ideology of its respective nation. The Air Nomads had a theocracy led by four councils of monks or nuns; the Water Tribe has a tribal system which was led by two separate chiefdoms in the North and South Poles until the conclusion of the Hundred Year War; the Earth Kingdom has a confederate monarchy led by an earth monarch; the Fire Nation has an absolute monarchy led by the Fire Lord; and the United Republic of Nations has a democracy led by an elected president.
- Main article: Air Nomads
Government system: Unitary directorial ecclesiocracy
Head of state and government: Four Councils of Elders
Most recent known head: Four Councils of Elders
Territorial divisions: Four air temples
Heads of territorial divisions: Head monks (Northern and Southern Air Temple) and mothers superior (Eastern and Western Air Temple)
Capital: No overall capital
The Air Nomads had no overall government that made unified decisions. Instead, there were four Councils of Elders that presided over each of the four temples. These assemblies consisted of wise and experienced airbending masters, either entirely monks or nuns, that made decisions regarding the temple and its people. However, in comparison to the political systems of the other nations, the Council of Elders had little real authority, and only served as supervisors or managers. The Southern Air Temple had five monks on its Council of Elders, including High Monk Pasang, Tashi, and Gyatso. Sister Iio was the Mother Superior and thus the head of the council in the Eastern Air Temple. In the advent of the Hundred Year War, the temples' councils were killed along with the rest of the nation.
Government system: Unitary Pseudo-Ecclesiocracy
Head of state and government: No overall head of state; just certain respected individuals
Most recent known head: Tenzin
Territorial divisions: Five air temples
Heads of territorial divisions: Air Acolyte abbots (one for each temple)
Capital: No overall capital
To preserve the Air Nomad culture after the Hundred Year War, Aang founded the Air Acolytes, and over time, they grew to be the cultural successors of the Air Nomads, namely the Air Nation. Like the other nations, they too had a political representative on the United Republic Council. As the sole living airbending master and the son of Avatar Aang, Tenzin had a great amount of influence among the Air Acolytes and was held in high regard. Each air temple is administered by an abbot, but ultimately falls under the authority of the head of state.
With the return of airbending following Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG, Tenzin was seen as the figurehead of the new Air Nation, serving as its representative in global affairs.
- Main article: Water Tribe
Government system: Tribal chiefdom
Head of state: Tribal chief, currently no overall chief
Territorial divisions: Three independent tribes
Capital: No overall capital
The Water Tribe originally did not have an overall leader. After the Hundred Year War, both its main divisions fell under the rule of one chief. Following a civil war, the Southern Water Tribe became independent and is now ruled by its own chief.
Northern Water Tribe
- Main article: Northern Water Tribe
Politics in the Northern Water Tribe are more complicated than in its sister tribe in the South Pole. There is one all-powerful leader, but there is a small council that advises him, most recently including the tribe's greatest waterbending master, Pakku. Politics can also be personal. For example, marrying the chief's daughter, the Tribal Princess, can be a significant step in a political career.
Southern Water Tribe
- Main article: Southern Water Tribe
Government system: Federal Parliamentary Elected Chiefdom
Head of state: Chief
Most recent known head: Tonraq
Head of government: Chairman of the Council of Chieftains and Elders
Capital: Harbor City
Decisions in the Southern Water Tribe are made exclusively by the current chief, and politics appear to be extremely simple, with only one person in power and all others completely loyal to that person. Unlike in the Northern Water Tribe, the chief's children, such as Katara and Sokka, are not viewed as royalty. Korra, by virtue of her paternal grandfather and uncle being the former chief of the North is technically royalty, but still treated as a regular citizen.
In recent years, its structure became more readily defined, with its Council of Chieftains and Elders handling day-to-day affairs of state and possessing its own judicial system. Due to the South's independence from the North in 171 AG, the council now elects their own chief into office.
Foggy Swamp Tribe
- Main article: Foggy Swamp Tribe
Little is known about the politics of the Foggy Swamp Water Tribe. However, Huu seemed to have some kind of spiritual authority, although his relationship with the rest of the tribe is fairly informal.
- Main article: Earth Kingdom
Government system: Confederate Constitutional Monarchy
Head of state: Earth monarch
Most recent known head of state: Wu
Head of government: Grand Secretariat
Most recent known head of government: Gun
Territorial divisions: Various autonomous states, regions and provinces
Heads of territorial divisions: Kings, governors, mayors
Capital: Ba Sing Se
Though the ruler of Ba Sing Se, titled as the Earth King or Queen, is the official overall leader of the Earth Kingdom, the country functions as a sort of confederation, with individual states, provinces, and cities given a great deal of autonomy. Outside of the cities, the central government has little influence. Furthermore, the Earth Kingdom has no unified system of laws, with each region having its own legal code. These territories do, however, provide support and troops to the Earth King whenever necessary and the military functions as a unified body.
In 174 AG, after Kuvira's defeat at Republic City, King Wu decided he would abolish the monarchy in favor of independent states with a democratically elected government akin to the political situation of the United Republic of Nations.
Ba Sing Se
- Main article: Ba Sing Se
Executive power of the government of Ba Sing Se and, by extension, the entire Earth Kingdom is vested to the earth monarch. It should be noted that the day-to-day affairs of the city are managed by the Grand Secretariat, who answers only to the monarch.
- Main article: Omashu
Omashu, though part of the Earth Kingdom and therefore answerable to the Earth King in Ba Sing Se, has its own king and is relatively autonomous of the capital.
- Main article: Zaofu
Title of leader: Matriarch
Most recent known leader: Suyin Beifong
Position: Autonomous city-state
Zaofu was founded and built by Suyin Beifong, head of the Metal Clan and daughter of the famous Toph Beifong. Like Omashu, it is part of the Earth Kingdom while staying relatively autonomous of the capital. In 174 AG, it was briefly annexed to the Earth Empire by Kuvira, who assumed total control over the city.
- Main article: Fire Nation
Government system: Autocratic Absolute Monarchy
Head of state and government: Fire Lord
Most recent known head: Izumi
Territorial divisions: Homeland (formerly including Fire Nation colonies)
Heads of territorial divisions: Governors and mayors
Capital: Fire Nation Capital
Centuries prior, the Fire Nation was formerly ruled by a council of Fire Sages until the Fire Lord broke from the council and established a monarchy. The Fire Lord's firstborn child is the Heir to the Fire Lord, usually referred to as the Crown Prince or the Crown Princess.
Sun Warrior Tribe
- Main article: Sun Warriors
United Republic of Nations
- Main article: United Republic of Nations
Government system: Unitary Presidential Republic (formerly Unitary Directorial Republic)
Head of state and government: President (formerly United Republic Council)
Most recent known head: Raiko
Territorial divisions: Various states, regions and provinces
Capital: Republic City
The United Republic of Nations was formerly led by the United Republic Council, which was composed of one representative from each major nation, who represented the interest of their people. However, in the aftermath of the Anti-bending Revolution, it was decided that this political system was flawed because it did not sufficiently represent the interests of the majority. The United Republic Council was dissolved and an elected president was designated as the new head of state, thus making it the first and so far only democracy in the World of Avatar.