Politics – how the people rule

Niger became an independent republic in 1960. Since then, the country has seen many leaders come and go. Almost every new government has changed Niger's constitution, its politics and the balance of power. From this political turmoil Nigeriens have learnt two things. First, they want a democracy, where leaders are chosen by the people's vote. And second, they need a true balance of power, so that no one person or group controls the government.

Niger's national flag
Niger's national flag

National government

Niger has three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial. This is one way to have a balance of power so that no branch becomes too strong.

The executive branch is made up of:

  1. The president (Niger's head of state), elected to a five-year term by the people
  2. The prime minister (Niger's head of government) is selected by the president, from a list of candidates given to him, by the political party with the most seats in government
  3. A 27-member Cabinet appointed by the president to look after areas of the country's operations, e.g. agriculture and livestock, transport, defense, education, trade, etc
Government officials
Government officials

The legislative or lawmaking branch of government is known as the National Assembly. It is made up of 113 members who are elected to serve for five years. Eight members are elected to represent various minority groups in Niger. The others represent political parties and are elected from districts divided according to population. The political parties compete to gain the most seats in the National Assembly. Often, two or more parties merge to form a union, or coalition.

The judicial branch or courts administer the laws that are based on French civil law and on Nigerien custom. The Supreme Court is the nation's highest court. The High Court of Justice, tries the president or any other high officials for crimes such as treason. The Court of Appeal hears cases appealed from lower courts like the Criminal Court. There is a serious shortage of judges to handle cases. Niger has one judge for every 40,000 people.

Local government

Niamey's night lights
Niamey's night lights

Niger is divided into seven departments and one capital district – Niamey, the capital. The departments are Agadez, Diffa, Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillaberi and Zinder. See map. (Pop up link to map in Geography section) To carry out government business, local government officials usually work closely with traditional community leaders.

Traditional government

Far more interesting and diverse than official government leaders are Niger's traditional chiefs. Among various ethnic groups, the people look to their traditional leaders for religious, moral and political decisions.