Local government

Local government

Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.[citation needed]

The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or (where appropriate) federal government. "Local government," generally acts within powers delegated to it by legislation or directives of the higher level of government and each country has some kind of local government which will differ from those of other countries. In primitive societies the lowest level of local government is the village headman or tribal chief. Federal states such as the United States have two levels of government above the local level: the governments of the fifty states and the federal national government whose relations are governed by the constitution of the United States. Local government in the United States originated in the colonial period and has been modified since then: the highest level of local government is at county level.[citation needed]

In modern nations, local governments usually have some of the same kind of powers as national governments do. They usually have some power to raise taxes, though these may be limited by central legislation. The question of Municipal Autonomy—which powers the local government has, or should have, and why—is a key question of public administration and governance. The institutions of local government vary greatly between countries, and even where similar arrangements exist, the terminology often varies. Common names for local government entities include state, province, region, department, county, prefecture, district, city, township, town, borough, parish, municipality, shire and village. However all these names are often used informally in different countries & local government is the legal part of central government.[citation needed]




Local government traditionally enjoyed limited power in Egypt's highly centralized state. Under the central government were twenty-six governorates (sing., muhafazah; pl., muhafazat). These were subdivided into districts (sing., markaz; pl., marakaz) and villages (sing., qaryah; pl., qura) or towns. At each level, there was a governing structure that combined representative councils and government-appointed executive organs headed by governors, district officers, and mayors, respectively. Governors were appointed by the president, and they, in turn, appointed subordinate executive officers. The coercive backbone of the state apparatus ran downward from the Ministry of Interior through the governors' executive organs to the district police station and the village headman (sing., umdah; pl., umadah).

Before the revolution, state penetration of the rural areas was limited by the power of local notables, but under Nasser, land reform reduced their socioeconomic dominance, and the incorporation of peasants into cooperatives transferred mass dependence from landlords to government. The extension of officials into the countryside permitted the regime to bring development and services to the village. The local branches of the ruling party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), fostered a certain peasant political activism and coopted the local notables—in particular the village headmen—and checked their independence from the regime.[citation needed]

State penetration did not retreat under Sadat and Mubarak. The earlier effort to mobilize peasants and deliver services disappeared as the local party and cooperative withered, but administrative controls over the peasants remained intact. The local power of the old families and the headmen revived but more at the expense of peasants than of the state. The district police station balanced the notables, and the system of local government (the mayor and council) integrated them into the regime.[citation needed]

Sadat took several measures to decentralize power to the provinces and towns. Governors acquired more authority under Law Number 43 of 1979, which reduced the administrative and budgetary controls of the central government over the provinces. The elected councils acquired, at least formally, the right to approve or disapprove the local budget. In an effort to reduce local demands on the central treasury, local government was given wider powers to raise local taxes. But local representative councils became vehicles of pressure for government spending, and the soaring deficits of local government bodies had to be covered by the central government. Local government was encouraged to enter into joint ventures with private investors, and these ventures stimulated an alliance between government officials and the local rich that paralleled the infitah alliance at the national level. Under Mubarak decentralization and local autonomy became more of a reality, and local policies often reflected special local conditions. Thus, officials in Upper Egypt often bowed to the powerful Islamic movement there, while those in the port cities struck alliances with importers[citation needed]


{{Main|Local authorities of Kenya


In recent years, Mali has undertaken an ambitious decentralization program, which involves the capital district of Bamako, seven regions subdivided into 46 cercles, and 682 rural community districts (communes). The state retains an advisory role in administrative and fiscal matters, and it provides technical support, coordination, and legal recourse to these levels. Opportunities for direct political participation, and increased local responsibility for development have been improved.[citation needed]

In August–September 1998, elections were held for urban council members, who subsequently elected their mayors. In May/June 1999, citizens of the communes elected their communal council members for the first time. Female voter turnout was about 70% of the total, and observers considered the process open and transparent. With mayors, councils, and boards in place at the local level, newly elected officials, civil society organizations, decentralized technical services, private sector interests, other communes, and donor groups began partnering to further development.[citation needed]

Eventually, the cercles will be reinstituted (formerly grouping arrondissements) with a legal and financial basis of their own. Their councils will be chosen by and from members of the communal councils. The regions, at the highest decentralized level, will have a similar legal and financial autonomy, and will comprise a number of cercles within their geographical boundaries. Mali needs to build capacity at these levels, especially to mobilize and manage financial resources.[citation needed]



Afghanistan was traditionally divided into provinces governed by centrally appointed governors with considerable autonomy in local affairs. There are currently 34 provinces. During the Soviet occupation and the development of country-wide resistance, local areas came increasingly under the control of mujaheddin groups that were largely independent of any higher authority; local commanders, in some instances, asserted a measure of independence also from the mujaheddin leadership in Pakistan, establishing their own systems of local government, collecting revenues, running educational and other facilities, and even engaging in local negotiations. Mujaheddin groups retained links with the Peshawar parties to ensure access to weapons that were doled out to the parties by the government of Pakistan for distribution to fighters inside Afghanistan.[citation needed]

The Taliban set up a shura (assembly), made up of senior Taliban members and important tribal figures from the area. Each shura made laws and collected taxes locally. The Taliban set up a provisional government for the whole of Afghanistan, but it did not exercise central control over the local shuras.[citation needed]

The process of setting up the transitional government in June 2002 by the Loya Jirga took many steps involving local government. First, at the district and municipal level, traditional shura councils met to pick electors—persons who cast ballots for Loya Jirga delegates. Each district or municipality had to choose a predetermined number of electors, based on the size of its population. The electors then traveled to regional centers and cast ballots, to choose from amongst themselves a smaller number of loya jirga delegates— according to allotted numbers assigned to each district. The delegates then took part in the Loya Jirga.[citation needed]

The warlords who rule various regions of the country exert local control. The transitional government is attempting to integrate local governing authorities with the central government, but it lacks the loyalty from he warlords necessary to its governing authority. More traditional elements of political authority—such as Sufi networks, royal lineage, clan strength, age-based wisdom, and the like—still exist and play a role in Afghan society. Karzai is relying on these traditional sources of authority in his challenge to the warlords and older Islamist leaders. The deep ethnic, linguistic, sectarian, tribal, racial, and regional cleavages present in the country create what is called "Qawm" identity, emphasizing the local over higher-order formations. Qawm refers to the group to which the individual considers himself to belong, whether a subtribe, village, valley, or neighborhood. Local governing authority relies upon these forms of identity and loyalty.[citation needed]


In India the local government is the third level of government apart from the State and Central governments. There are two types of Local Government in operation: Panchayats in rural areas and Municipalities in urban areas. The Panchayats are a linked-system of local bodies with village panchayats (average population about 5,000),panchayat samities at the intermediate level (average population about 100,000), and district pancakes (average population about 1,000,000).[citation needed]

Number of Panchayats and Municipalities in India, 2004

Panchayats Nos. Municipalities Nos. Gram (Village) 236,350 Municipal Corporations 109 Samities (Intermediate) 6,795 Municipal Councils 1,432 Zilla (District) 531 Nagar(Town)Panchayats 2,182 Total 243,676 Total 3,723 Source: India, Twelfth Finance Commission Report, 2005

The rural panchayats created in around 1959 were based on the soviet model (Yugoslav variety ) of tiering with hierarchical control to undertake mainly agency tasks of the states through earmarked funding, with limited civic tasks financed from assigned land revenue and local surcharge thereon. This resulted in overlapping functional jurisdiction and a mismatch of functions and taxes among the three tiers. The urban municipalities, created during the colonial days of mid-19th century, survived the ‘socialist’ experiment and retained their separate character as their English counterparts. In 1991, through two identical constitutional amendments, one for the Panchayats and the other for the Municipalities, a number of changes were introduced to strengthen local governments in India ensure regularity of their election every five years and limiting their period of super session or dissolution to six months, three sets of local local governments for the Panchayats and the Municipalities, reservation of seats and chairpersons for women and scheduled castes and tribes, creation of independent state election commission (SEC), state finance commission (SFC) linked with the central finance commission, and planning committees at the districts (DPCs) and metropolitan areas (MPCs). In addition, these amendments have indicated guidelines for the states to empower the local governments through increased devolution of functions and taxes to them- these are not been followed-up by the states. However, the CFCs have been allocating discretionary grants for local governments passed through the states.[citation needed] One lacuna in the existing arrangement is that the Panchayats do not have a statutorily delegated list of functions on which its revenues could be spent; this has created problems of financing their own activities from their own revenues or through general grants from the CFC-SFC arrangements. Panchayats act mostly as agencies for implementing their erstwhile soviet plan schemes and projects on cost reimbursement (around 96% of their activities) that do not have any maintenance component for transferred completed works.[citation needed] The major national parties are committed to improve the effectiveness of the Panchayats through further central action to remedy to situation.[citation needed]


The Israeli Ministry of Interior recognizes four types of local government in Israel:[citation needed]

  • Cities: 71 single-level urban municipalities, usually with populations exceeding 20,000 residents.
  • Local councils: 141 single-level urban or rural municipalities, usually with populations between 2,000 and 20,000.
  • Regional Councils: 54 bi-level municipalities which govern multiple rural communities located in relative geographic vicinity. The number of residents in the individual communities usually does not exceed 2000. There are no clear limits to the population and land area size of Israeli regional councils.
  • Industrial councils: Two single-level municipalities which govern large and complex industrial areas outside cities. The local industrial councils are Tefen in Upper Galilee (north of Karmiel) and Ramat Hovav in the Negev (south of Beer Sheva).


Since the Meiji restoration, Japan has had a local government system based on prefectures. The national government oversees much of the country. Municipal governments were historical villages. Now mergers are common for cost effective administration. There are 47 prefectures. They have two main responsibilities. One is mediation between national and municipal governments. The other is area wide administration.


Local government is the lowest level in the system of government in Malaysia—after federal and state. It has the power to collect taxes (in the form of assessment tax), to create laws and rules (in the form of by-laws) and to grant licenses and permits for any trade in its area of jurisdiction, in addition to providing basic amenities, collecting and managing waste and garbage as well as planning and developing the area under its jurisdiction.


Local government is the third tier of government in Pakistan, After Federal Government and Provincial Government.There are three types administrative units of local government in Pakistan

There are over five thousand local governments in Pakistan. Since 2001, these have been led by democratically elected local councils, each headed by a Nazim (the word means "supervisor" in Urdu, but is sometimes translated as Mayor).Some districts, incorporating large metropolitan areas, are called City District. A City District may contain subdivisions called Towns and Union Councils. Council elections are held every four years.

Palestinian Authority

Local government in the Palestinian National Authority-controlled areas are divided into three main groups: Municipal councils, village council and local development committees.

  • Municipality (Palestinian Authority): Depends on size of locality. Localities that serve as the centers of governorates and populations over 15,000 have 15-member councils. Localities with populations over 15,000 residents have 13-member councils and localities with populations between 4,000 and 15,000 have 9-member councils.
  • Village Council (Palestinian Authority): Localities with populations between 800 and 1,500 have 3-member councils while those between 1,500 and -4,000 residents have 7-member councils.


For a description of the arrangements in force, see the section on Regions and Provinces in the article on the Philippines.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

There three levels of local government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: the city council, the municipal council and the municipality.

The city council is the highest level of local government.

The municipal councils began in 2005 and is the second level of local government.

The municipality is the third level of local government. There are 178 municipalities across the kingdom. The first began in Jeddah during the Othmanic period. Each municipality is run by its city's mayor. As a collective the kingdom's municipalities make up the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs (MoMRA).


Turkey has two levels of local government; provinces (Turkish: iller ) and districts (Turkish: ilçeler ).

The territory of Turkey is subdivided into 81 provinces for administrative purposes. The provinces are organized into 7 regions for census purposes; however, they do not represent an administrative structure. Each province is divided into districts, for a total of 923 districts.



According to its Constitution of 1958, France has 3 levels of local government :

However, in addition to the constitutional clauses of 1958, there now exist specificities:

  • Intercommunalities are now a level of government between municipalities and departments.
  • There exist 2 "pays d'outre-mer": French Polynesia and New Caledonia. The expression "pays d'outre-mer" is convenient as it can be understood in French as both "overseas country" and "overseas county/traditional area" (as evidenced by Pays de la Loire that is a home région, not a home "country"). French Polynesia works as an autonomous région, whereas New Caledonia has a sui generis local government status with specific institutions and even more autonomy.


As a federal country, Germany is divided into a number of states (Länder in German), which used to have wide powers, but whose main remaining power today (2004) is their ability to veto federal laws through their Bundesrat representation.[citation needed] The system of local government is described in the article on States of Germany.


Local government in Ireland is mainly based on a structure of 29 county councils and five city councils. By far the main source of funding is national government. Other sources include rates on commercial and industrial property, housing rents, service charges and borrowing. The city and county councils suffer from a combination of a lack of power to raise their own taxes and a gradual and persistent erosion of their powers over time. Therefore, local policy decisions are sometimes heavily influenced by the TDs who represent the local constituency in Dáil Éireann (the main chamber of parliament), and may be dictated by national politics rather than local needs.

Isle of Man

Local government on the Isle of Man is based on the concept of ancient parishes. There are three types of local authorities: a borough corporation, town commissions, and parish commissions.


The Italian Constitution defines three levels of local government:

  • Regions: At present 5 of them (Valle d'Aosta, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Sardinia and Sicily) have a special status and are given more power than the others. The constitutional reform of 2001 gave more power to regions.
  • Provinces: They mostly care to roads, forests, and education. They had more power in the past.
  • Communes: The Mayor and staff, caring for the needs of a single town or of a village and neighbouring minor towns or villages.

Major cities also have an extra tier of local government named Circoscrizione di Decentramento Comunale or, in some cities (e.g. Rome) Municipio.


The Netherlands has three tiers of government. There are two levels of local government in the Netherlands, the provinces and the municipalities. The water boards are also part of the local government.

The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces. They form the tier of administration between the central government and the municipalities. Each province is governed by a provincial council (Provinciale Staten). Its members are elected every four years. The day-to-day management of the province is in the hands of the provincial executive (Gedeputeerde Staten). Members of the executive are chosen by the provincial council from among its own members and like the members of the provincial council serve for a period of four years. Members elected to the executive have to give up their membership of the provincial council. The size of the executive varies from one province to another. In Flevoland, the smallest of the Dutch provinces, it has four members, while most other provinces have six or seven. Meetings of the provincial executive are chaired by the Queen's Commissioner. The Queen's Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koningin) is not elected by the residents of the province, but appointed by the Crown (the Queen and government ministers). The appointment is for six years and may be extended by a second term. The Queen's Commissioner can be dismissed only by the Crown. Queen's Commissioners play an important part in the appointment of municipal mayors. When a vacancy arises, the Queen's Commissioner first asks the municipal council for its views as to a successor, then writes to the Minister of the Interior recommending a candidate.

Municipalities form the lowest tier of government in the Netherlands, after the central government and the provinces. There are 458 of them (1 January 2006). The municipal council (Gemeenteraad) is the highest authority in the municipality. Its members are elected every four years. The role of the municipal council is comparable to that of the board of an organisation or institution. Its main job is to decide the municipality's broad policies and to oversee their implementation. The day-to-day administration of the municipality is in the hands of the municipal executive (college van burgemeester en wethouders, abbreviated to B&W), made up of the mayor (Burgemeester) and the aldermen. The executive implements national legislation on matters such as social assistance, unemployment benefits and environmental management. It also bears primary responsibility for the financial affairs of the municipality and for its personnel policies. Aldermen (Wethouders) are appointed by the council. Councillors can be chosen to act as aldermen. In that case, they lose their seats on the council and their places are taken by other representatives of the same political parties. Non-councillors can also be appointed. Unlike councillors and aldermen, mayors are not elected (not even indirectly), but are appointed by the Crown. Mayors chair both the municipal council and the executive. They have a number of statutory powers and responsibilities of their own. They are responsible for maintaining public order and safety within the municipality and frequently manage the municipality's public relations. As Crown appointees, mayors also have some responsibility for overseeing the work of the municipality, its policies and relations with other government bodies. Although they are obliged to carry out the decisions of the municipal council and executive, they may recommend that the Minister of the Interior quash any decision that they believe to be contrary to the law or against the public interest. Mayors are invariably appointed for a period of six years and are normally re-appointed automatically for another term, provided the municipal council agrees. They can be dismissed only by the Crown and not by the municipal council.

Water boards are among the oldest government authorities in the Netherlands. They literally form the foundation of the whole Dutch system of local government; from time immemorial they have shouldered the responsibility for water management for the residents of their area. In polders this mainly involves regulating the water level. It has always been in the common interest to keep water out and polder residents have always had to work together. That is what led to the creation of water boards. The structure of the water boards varies, but they all have a general administrative body, an executive board and a chairperson. The general administrative body consists of people representing the various categories of stakeholders: landholders, leaseholders, owners of buildings, companies and, since recently, all the residents as well. Importance and financial contribution decide how many representatives each category may delegate. Certain stakeholders (e.g. environmental organisations) may be given the power to appoint members. The general administrative body elects the executive board from among its members. The government appoints the chairperson (Dijkgraaf) for a period of six years. The general administrative body is elected for a period of four years. In the past the administrative body was elected as individuals but from 2009 they will be elected as party representatives. Unlike municipal council elections, voters do not usually have to go to a polling station but can vote by mail.


Norway's regional administration is organised in 19 counties (fylke), with 18 of them subdivided into 431 municipalities (kommune) per January 1, 2006. The municipal sector is a provider of vital services to the Norwegian public, accounting for about 20% of Norwegian GNP and 24% of total employment. Norway had 435 municipalities of varying size in 2003, each administered by an elected municipal council. They are grouped into 19 counties (fylker), each governed by an elected county council. Each county is headed by a governor appointed by the king in council. Oslo is the only urban center that alone constitutes a county; the remaining 18 counties consist of both urban and rural areas. County and municipal councils are popularly elected every four years. The municipalities have wide powers over the local economy, with the state exercising strict supervision. They have the right to tax and to use their resources to support education, libraries, social security, and public works such as streetcar lines, gas and electricity works, roads, and town planning, but they are usually aided in these activities by state funds.


Spain is divided into 17 Autonomous Communities, which in turn are divided into 50 provinces. There are also two autonomous cities: those of Ceuta and Melilla. Finally, each province comprises a number of municipalities.

Each administrative entity is given powers, structure, and boundaries by a law that was passed by the President of the Government (or Prime Minister).

Law 7/1985,[1] passed by the former Spanish President Felipe González Márquez (socialist), lays down the procedure of the Local Government. Every city in Spain used this Law until 2003. This year, the former Spanish President José María Aznar López (conservative), passed a Law (57/2003[2]) to modernize organic rules of those cities which had more than 250,000 inhabitants, and other important cities (like capital cities of Provinces with at least 175,000 inhabitants). Also, it exists two other important Laws for specifically Madrid (Law 22/2006[3]) and Barcelona (Law 1/2006[4]). The main governing body in every city is called The Plenary (el Pleno). The number of members that compose The Plenary varies depending on city's population (for example, since 2007 Valencia has 33 members and Pamplona has 27). The name given to the members of the Plenary is Councelor (Concejal). Those Councelors are elected between city's inhabitants every four years by direct vote. After being elected, Councelors meet in a special Plenary session to determine who will be elected, between them, as City's Mayor. In the next days after the election, the Mayor chooses some Councelors to set up the executive governing body (Junta de Gobierno). After that, and for the next four years, City's Mayor and the Junta de Gobierno will govern over the city according to their competences (urbanism, some taxes, local police, licenses for specific activities, cleaning services, etc.). Meanwhile, Councelors in the Plenary but not part of the Junta de Gobierno (the opposition) will oversee Mayor's rule. The Autonomous Community of Catalonia is divided in 4 provinces and more than 900 municipalities. Between these two tiers, there are 41 'Comarques' (singular, Comarca), roughly equivalent to 'county'. The 'Comarca' is a 'commonwealth' of municipalities with competences in several fields (Law 6/1987 of the Parliament of Catalonia).


Sweden is divided into counties (län) which in turn are divided into municipalities (kommuner).


United Kingdom

The system of local government is different in each of the four countries of the United Kingdom. In total there are 433 local authorities in the UK. 353 of these are in England, 26 in Northern Ireland, 32 in Scotland and 22 are in Wales.


The most complex system is in England, the result of numerous reforms and reorganisation over the centuries. The top level of sub-national administration within England are the nine regions. The regions are used by central government for various statistical purposes, and have Government Offices and assorted other institutions. However only the London region has a directly elected government. Only one regional referendum has been held to date to seek consent for the introduction of direct elections elsewhere —in the northeast of England—and this was soundly rejected by the electorate.

The layers of elected local government vary. In different areas the highest tier of elected local government may be

  • Counties, which may be
    • single tier unitary authorities, or
    • divided into districts (also known as boroughs in some areas)
  • districts, which are separate unitary authorities in some areas
  • metropolitan districts (also called metropolitan boroughs) in some areas which are similar to unitary authorities, but have joint boards with other districts in the same metropolitan county
  • Greater London, which is divided into 32 London boroughs and the City of London

In most areas there is a lower tier of government, civil par , with limited functions. Most civil parishes are in rural areas, but if the parish is a town the parish council may be called a town council. In a few cases the parish is a city, and the parish council is called a city council.

Metropolitan counties, and a few non-metropolitan counties, no longer have elected councils or administrative functions, and their former functions are performed by districts. Such counties remain ceremonial counties.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is divided into 26 districts. Local government in Northern Ireland does not carry out the same range of functions as those in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Northern Irish Department of the Environment has announced plans to decrease the number of councils to 11.


Wales has a uniform system of 22 unitary authorities, bouhf to as counties or county boroughs. There are also communities, equivalent to parishes.


Local government in Scotland is arranged on the lines of unitary authorities, with the nation divided into 32 council areas.

North America


Canada has a federal system with three orders of government. The largest is the federal government, followed by the provincial and local governments.[5] Municipal governments are separately elected. They must follow laws and guidelines as set out by their province, but are allowed to pass additional by-laws and acts unique to them.


Mexico is a Federal Republic made up by 31 states and a federal district. Each state is divided in municipios, while the federal district is divided in sixteen delegaciones. Twenty-nine states of Mexico were created as administrative divisions by the constitution of 1917, which grants them those powers not expressly vested in the federal government; Mexico's two remaining territories, Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, achieved statehood on 9 October 1974, raising the total to 31. Each state has a constitution, a governor elected for six years, and a unicameral legislature, with representatives elected by district vote in proportion to population. An ordinary session of the legislature is held annually, and extraordinary sessions may be called by the governor or the permanent committee. Bills may be introduced by legislators, by the governor, by the state supreme court, and by municipalities (a unit comparable to a US county). In addition to the 31 states, there is also one federal district comprising Mexico City, whose governor serves as a member of the cabinet. Many state services are supported by federal subsidies.

The principal unit of state government is the municipality. Mexico's 2,378 municipalities are governed by municipal presidents and municipal councils. State governors generally select the nominees for the municipal elections. Municipal budgets are approved by the respective state governors. Until 1997, the president appointed the mayor of Mexico City. Political reforms allowed the first open elections in 1997. PRD candidate Cuauhtémoc Cardenas Solórzano was elected mayor. When he resigned to run for the presidency in 1999, Rosario Robles Berlanga became the first woman mayor of Mexico City. In 2000, PRD's Andrés Manuel López Obrador became the second democratically elected mayor of Mexico City. López Obrador's popularity as mayor has made him a prime candidate for the 2006 presidential election.

United States

Local government in the United States refers to the general-purpose governments at the county, city, town, or township level and special-purpose governments, which include special districts and school districts.[6]

Foreign observers from unitary states may view the states under the federal system of the United States as local governments. This is not, however, the case because the states possess sovereignty within the federal union, while local governments are not sovereign even within their respective states. Local governments are municipal corporations chartered by (and whose charters may be revoked by) the legislature of the creating state;



Local government is the 3rd type of government in Australia, after Federal and State.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a local government system comprising two complementary sets of local authorities—regional councils and territorial authorities. There are currently 86 local authorities consisting of:

  • 12 regional councils which cover most of New Zealand’s land area and
  • 74 territorial authorities (comprising 59 district councils and 15 city councils).

Five of the territorial authorities are unitary authorities, which also have the powers of a regional council. They are the Nelson City Council, the Gisborne, Marlborough and Tasman District Councils, and the Chatham Islands Council.

Regional council areas are based on water catchment areas, whereas territorial authorities are based on community of interest and road access. Within a regional council area there are usually many city or district councils, although city and district councils can be in multiple regional council areas.

South America


Argentina is a federation of 23 provinces and the federal capital of Buenos Aires. During the 19th century there was a bitter struggle between Buenos Aires and the interior provinces, and there has long been an element of tension regarding the division of powers between the central government and provincial bodies. The federal government retains control over such matters as the regulation of commerce, customs collections, currency, civil or commercial codes, or the appointment of foreign agents. The provincial governors are elected every four years.

The constitutional "national intervention" and "state of siege" powers of the president have been invoked frequently. The first of these powers was designed to "guarantee the republican form of government in the provinces." Since the adoption of the 1853 constitution, the federal government has intervened over 200 times, mostly by presidential decree. Under this authority, provincial and municipal offices may be declared vacant, appointments annulled, and local elections supervised. Between 1966 and 1973, all local legislatures were dissolved and provincial governors were appointed by the new president. A restoration of provincial and municipal government followed the return to constitutional government in 1973. After the March 1976 coup, the federal government again intervened to remove all provincial governors and impose direct military rule over all municipalities. Since 1983, representative local government has been in force again.

Until 1996, the President appointed the mayor of Buenos Aires, and by law, the president and Congress controlled any legislation that affected the city. Constitutional reforms that year led to an elected mayoral position, and a 60-member Poder Legislativo (legislative power). The members are elected by proportional representation to four-year terms.


Paraguay is divided into 17 departments, which are subdivided into districts, which, in turn, comprise municipalities (the minimum requirement for a municipality is 3,000 persons) and rural districts (partidos). A governor, elected by popular vote, runs each department. Municipal government is exercised through a municipal board, chosen by direct election, and an executive department. In the principal cities and capitals, the executive department is headed by a mayor appointed by the minister of the interior; in other localities, the mayor is appointed by the presidents of the municipal boards.Police chiefs are appointed by the central government.


Uruguay's administrative subdivisions consisted of nineteen territories called departments and governed by intendencias, which were subordinate to the central government and responsible for local administration. They enforced national laws and administered the nation's social and educational policies and institutions within their territories. These territories had limited taxing powers, but they could borrow funds and acquire property. They also had the power to establish unpaid five-member local boards or town councils in municipalities other than the departmental capital if the population was large enough to warrant such a body.

Executive authority was vested in a governor (intendente), who administered the department, and in a thirty-one-member departmental board (junta departmental), which carried out legislative functions. These functions included approval of the departmental budget and judicial actions, such as impeachment proceedings against departmental officials, including the governor. At the municipal level, a mayor (intendente municipal) assumed executive and administrative duties, carrying out resolutions made by the local board (whose members were appointed on the basis of proportional representation of the political parties). The governor was required to comply with and enforce the constitution and the laws and to promulgate the decrees enacted by the departmental board. The governor was authorized to prepare the budget, submit it for approval to the departmental board, appoint the board's employees, and, if necessary, discipline or suspend them. The governor represented the department in its relations with the national government and other departmental governments and in the negotiation of contracts with public or private agencies.

Like the governor, the members of the departmental board and the mayor were elected for five-year terms in direct, popular elections. A governor could be reelected only once, and candidates for the post had to meet the same requirements as those for a senator, in addition to being a native of the department or a resident therein for at least three years before assuming office. Departmental board members had to be at least twenty-three years of age, native born (or a legal citizen for at least three years), and a native of the department (or a resident for at least three years).

The board sat in the capital city of each department and exercised jurisdiction throughout the entire territory of the department. It could issue decrees and resolutions that it deemed necessary either on the suggestion of the governor or on its own initiative. It could approve budgets, fix the amount of taxes, request the intervention of the Accounts Tribunal for advice concerning departmental finances or administration, and remove from office—at the request of the governor—members of nonelective local departmental boards. The board also supervised local public services; public health; and primary, secondary, preparatory, industrial, and artistic education. Although Montevideo was the smallest department in terms of area (divided into twenty-three geographic zones that generally coincided with the electoral zones), its departmental board had sixty-five members in 1990; all other departments had thirty-one-member boards and a five-member executive council appointed by the departmental board, with proportional representation from the principal political parties.

Data as of December 1990

See also


External links

New Zealand

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  • local government — UK US noun [C or U] GOVERNMENT ► the control and organization of towns and small areas by an elected organization, or the organization itself: »She is now running her own consultancy business after a career in local government. »State law bans… …   Financial and business terms

  • local government — local governments 1) N UNCOUNT Local government is the system of electing representatives to be responsible for the administration of public services and facilities in a particular area. 2) N COUNT A local government is the same as a local… …   English dictionary

  • local government — n. The government of a geographical region smaller than a state, such as a city or county, with control over local matters. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008 …   Law dictionary

  • local government — n. 1. government of the affairs of a town, district, etc. by the people living there 2. the people chosen to administer this government …   English World dictionary

  • local government — n [C,U also + plural verb British English] the government of cities, towns etc rather than of a whole country →↑state, national ↑national, federal ↑federal …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • local government — noun uncount * the organizations that provide public services in a particular town or area, controlled by officials chosen in local elections …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Local Government —   [ ləʊkl gʌvnmənt, englisch], im angloamerikanischen Bereich die Kommunalverwaltung im Rahmen staatlicher Aufsicht. Sie wird von Gebietskörperschaften (County, District) und Funktionseinheiten wahrgenommen. Verwaltungsaufbau und Zuständigkeiten… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • local government — ► NOUN ▪ the administration of a particular county or district, with representatives elected by those who live there …   English terms dictionary

  • local government — City, county, or other governing body at a level smaller than a state. Local government has the greatest control over real property, zoning, and other local matters + Local government. The government or administration of a particular locality;… …   Black's law dictionary

  • local government — City, county, or other governing body at a level smaller than a state. Local government has the greatest control over real property, zoning, and other local matters + Local government. The government or administration of a particular locality;… …   Black's law dictionary

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