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The Prefectoral system of Local Government

The Prefectoral system of local government is a French creation. It was originally a highly centralized system and operated a system of chains of command. It is hierarchical in nature with the lower units taking directives from above. The central government appoints prefects who exercised very wide powers over local authorities.

Today, the Prefectoral system is totally different from the original one which has been criticized as being dictatorial. 

The French local government system has been transformed completely through the 1982 French local government reforms.

Three separate units
The system has three different units. The lowest unit is the Commune. These are found in small towns. The ones larger than the communes are the Departments. They are for areas with populations larger than the communes. In all, there are 96 Departments. The third group is the Regions. They are the largest and newest unit of French local government system. They were formally established in 1986.

Tower, Fortress, Castle, Medieval, Walls
Tower Fortress Castle
The three different local government units are non-hierarchical. This means they are independent of each other. For instance, the communes function as independent units and do not take commands or instructions from the Departments.

Popular election
Another feature of the prefectoral system of government is the adoption of popular election in the choice of local government officials. The ballot is used in the election of all the local government councils.

Government appointed Prefect
The government appoints a Prefect over the Councils. Though the powers of the Prefect are not as wide as is it was under the traditional system, it is still extensive. The Prefect can submit council bye-laws and decisions to an administrative court to cancel if he feels such laws or decisions are contrary to the law. He can also submit council budgets to a regional audit court for scrutiny.

Agents of the Legislature
The councils serve as agents of the legislature, and at the same time as agents of the Executive.

Dual allegiance
All personnel of local government is acting for the national government as well as the local authorities.

Paris, Eiffel Tower, France, French
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Highly democratic
The new Prefectoral system of local government is regarded as very democratic. There are nearly 36,500 communes which elect over half a million council officers. This means every 76 adults is represented by one representative.

The presence of the Prefect and the way he checks on councils ensures that the Councils works efficiently.

Local decision sync with national goals
The national government is strongly involved in the Prefectoral system of local government. The result is that it ensures that the decisions of local units are always in line with the political goals of the nation.

Respect for local officials
Under the Prefectoral system, the activities of local authorities are at the same time the activities of the national government. Therefore, individuals attach some respect to officials of local government regardless of whether they were appointed by Paris or elected by the people.

Lighthouse, Paris, France, Seine River
Lighthouse, Paris.

It is expensive
The system has been criticized on the grounds that it has too many elected persons and administrative structures, and this calls for money to cater for the running of the system.

Weak and non-viable local government units
The system creates weak and non-viable local government units. Most of the communes are small in terms of size, mostly, a few thousands, so they are not viable.

Government interference
There is a lot of government interference in local government under the new Prefectoral system just as it was in the traditional system.

1. a. Highlight the features of the Prefectoral system of the government.
    b. Explain three advantages of the Prefectoral system.

2. a. Describe the Prefectoral system of local government.
    b. Highlight the main features of the Prefectoral system of local government.

3. Highlight three advantages and three disadvantages of the French system of Local Government.

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