Merger (politics)

Merger (politics)

A merger or amalgamation in a political or administrative sense is the combination of two or more political or administrative entities such as municipalities (in other words cities, towns, etc.), counties, districts, etc. into a single entity. This term is used when the process occurs within a sovereign entity. In United States politics, such an entity may be called a consolidated city–county. Unbalanced growth or outward expansion of one neighbor may necessitate an administrative decision to merge (see urban sprawl). In some cases, common perception of continuity may be a factor in prompting such a process (see conurbation). Some cities (see below) that have gone though amalgamation or a similar process had several administrative sub-divisions or jurisdictions, each with a separate person in charge.

Annexation is similar to amalgamation, but differs in being applied mainly to two cases:

  1. The units joined are sovereign entities before the process, as opposed to being units of a single political entity.
  2. A city's boundaries are expanded by adding territories not already incorporated as cities or villages.


Notable municipal mergers

Over the years political parties have taken aim at cities as part of a larger political agenda. Often the abolishment of a level of government results in the growth of another level — negating the original purpose of the merger. Some of the more politically charged transformations of city governments have been led by conservative parties, as to target the usually more liberal voting urban regions.[citation needed]

Some of the more notable amalgamations are noted below:


In 1977, the 2,359 municipalities of Belgium were merged to 596 new municipalities.


In 1975, the state of Guanabara and the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil were merged. The former consisted of only the territorial limits of the city of Rio de Janeiro, formerly the Federal District as Brazilian capital until 1960, when it was moved to newly-built Brasília. When merged, Guanabara became the municipality of Rio de Janeiro within the new state. In geographical terms, it would seem the state of Rio would have incorporated Guanabara; but, as the administrative and financial resources of the former capital were significant and even larger than the rest of the state, the change was more correctly referred to as a merger (fusão).


In Canada, the 1990s saw the forced amalgamation of several municipal entities in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec into larger new municipalities. The process created what was labeled a megacity by the media, although none of the created municipalities fit in the definition of a megacity in the international sense and some of them have fewer than a million inhabitants.

Nova Scotia

  • Halifax — In 1996, the City of Halifax, City of Dartmouth, Town of Bedford, and Halifax County amalgamated into the Halifax Regional Municipality, often called a "megacity," with a total population just over 400,000.
  • Sydney — In 1995, the City of Sydney and towns in the Industrial Cape Breton Region amalgamated.



  • Gatineau — five municipalities in southwestern Quebec (Gatineau, Hull, Aylmer, Buckingham, and Masson-Angers) were merged into a new City of Gatineau in 2002.
  • Montreal — In the Montreal Merger on January 1, 2002, the Parti Québécois provincial government merged all municipalities on the Island of Montreal into a new City of Montreal. On January 1, 2006, a partial demerger occurred.
  • Saguenay — The cities of Chicoutimi, Jonquière, La Baie and Laterrière, along with the municipalities of Lac-Kénogami and Shipshaw and part of the township of Tremblay, were amalgamated into the City of Saguenay in 2002.



In 1970, mergers brought the number of municipalities of Denmark from 1,098 to 277. In 2007, the (by then) 270 municipalities were consolidated into 98 municipalities, most of them results of mergers.


An ongoing series of mergers has reduced the number of municipalities of Finland from 432 in 2006 to 336 in 2011.


Several states of West Germany carried out municipal merger programmes in the 1960s and 1970s. In Baden-Württemberg, the number of municipalities dropped from 3,379 to 1,110 between 1968 and 1975; in Bavaria, from roughly 7,000 to roughly 2,000 between 1972 and 1978; in Hesse, from 2,642 to 421 between 1972 and 1977; in North Rhine-Westphalia, from 2,365 to 396 between 1967 and 1975; and in Saarland, from 345 to 50 in 1974. In the Bavarian town of Ermershausen, citizens occupied the town hall to resist the merger with Maroldsweisach — unsuccessfully, although Ermershausen was reconstituted as an independent municipality in 1994 — and Horgau, also in Bavaria, successfully appealed its merger with Zusmarshausen to the Constitutional Court of Bavaria (Bayerischer Verfassungsgerichtshof). Mergers have also taken place in the former East Germany after 1990, for example in Brandenburg in 2003.


The Kallikratis Programme replaced the 1033 municipalities and communities of Greece with 325 new municipalities in 2011.


Many rural municipalities of Sweden were merged in 1952; the number of them decreasing from 2,281 to 816. Another series of mergers, this time also including cities and market towns, reduced the total number of municipalities from roughly 1,000 in the early 1960s to 278 in 1974.

United States

See also

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