The Intersection of Data and Democracy in Niger: IRI Supports Elected Officials and Vulnerable Populations

  • Bobby Brooks,

On December 27, citizens of Niger went to the polls to vote in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections. With security remaining a significant challenge in the region, addressing citizen concerns will be key to strengthening Niger’s democratic path and, ultimately, providing stability for those affected by conflict. To support the needed responsiveness in Niger’s political system, the International Republican Institute (IRI) is leveraging its role as a leader in quantitative and qualitative data collection and providing key information to governmental officials that will help them better respond to citizen concerns.

Niger’s 2020-2021 presidential, parliamentary and local elections were a pivotal moment for the country’s democratic development. Since gaining independence, Nigeriens have lived under many constitutions and three periods of military rule. The country’s most recent transition to civilian rule occurred in 2011 with the election of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who, adhering to the constitutional limit on his term, did not seek reelection this December. Abiding by the terms of the Constitution is – and should be – a good practice. If managed properly, this transition can set a dynamic and positive precedent for the nation and for a region beleaguered by constitutional crisis.

However, the newly elected leaders will also need to address citizens’ security concerns and improve Niger’s inclusivity, transparency and accountability to consolidate its democratic system of governance. In terms of security, though the government has created ministries and participated in regional institutions to combat violent extremism, its approach has so far failed to incorporate the voices of the nation’s most disenfranchised and those directly impacted by conflict.

The country’s service delivery strategy has also failed to reach all citizens in recent years. Since its transition to democratic rule, Niger has struggled to provide government services that are inclusive of diverse citizen perspectives and responsive to its population’s security, justice and socioeconomic needs. As noted in a previous report published by IRI on migration and governance in Niger, “popular support for democratic institutions is high in Niger, but government performance falls short on provision of basic services and migration management.”

Such problems are often the result of a lack of coordination between citizens, elected officials and policy streams. Local elected officials and national policy agendas are rarely informed by citizen needs and thus lack both the incentive and opportunity to tailor policies to the public. While democracy remains popular, Nigerien elected officials must have a stronger grasp on society’s priorities to effectively address Niger’s most significant challenges.

IRI is aiming to fill the gap in information about citizen concerns and preferences by conducting nationwide polling, through which IRI ensures that local officials are equipped with key insights into what their constituents need. Not only does this support public discourse around key priorities, but it also expands the ability of governments to design public policy that meets citizens’ demands. Through its quantitative and qualitative polling, IRI is facilitating coordination between elected officials and their constituencies and providing a direct incentive to develop citizen-centric policy.

In doing so, IRI supports an environment where dialogue about and responsiveness to citizen priorities is central to the policy process in Niger, which will improve trust in the government and foster inclusion and accountability. It will also strengthen community resilience to conflict, support migrant populations that are often left out of the political process and promote cohesiveness between Niamey and communities on the periphery, geographically and politically. Ultimately, these efforts will consolidate democratic behaviors, which, in turn, will encourage stability and lasting security to the African nation. 

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