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 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
The executive branch is made up of:
The president (Niger's head of state), elected to a five-year term by the
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.