Niger - Local government

Like most of Francophone Africa, Niger has recently reorganized its territorial administration and devolved certain political authorities through decentralization. Formerly, Niger consisted of 7 departments, subdivided into 38 arrondissements (now 36), and a capital district. These units were administered by prefects and subprefects, who were appointed by the central government. There were 150 communes (urban centers), of which 4 were fully autonomous. A pyramidal system of councils at the village, arrondissement , departmental, and national levels with advisory powers existed. Members were directly elected at the village level, while some members of the higher councils were elected by the council below, and other members were appointed.

Democratization and demands for better governance led to popular participation in local government. However, devolving authority from the national level required adequate electoral safeguards, which historically were absent. In 1999, the Supreme Court ordered a rerun of municipal elections in 17 of the country's 72 municipalities, 21 of its 26 departments, and 5 of its 7 regions. Opponents objected on the grounds that their candidates had held a clear lead over those of the president's party. The ensuing deadlock contributed to the crisis of government and to the 9 April coup.

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