Types of Local Governments
Turkey has three types of local governments: special provincial administrations, municipalities and villages.
a- Special provincial administrations
Predating the Republic (proclaimed in 1923) in Turkey, special provincial administrations as a province-wide local government continued their operations until 2005 on the basis of a law promulgated in 1914. They are in charge of building the physical infrastructure for education, healthcare and sports as well as the infrastructure for rural settlements and agricultural production across the province. In 2014 however, the special provincial administration was abolished in 30 provinces where the metropolitan municipality status was accorded, and its functions were transferred to metropolitan municipalities. Today, special provincial administrations continue to discharge the said functions in 51 provinces, operating in a sense as municipalities for rural areas.
The central government allocates 0.5% of state tax revenues to special provincial administrations. Ministries usually realize their investments in the provinces through special provincial administrations by transferring the relevant appropriation.
Own revenues of special provincial administrations are minimally low; they mostly rely on the apportionments from the central budget and transfers of appropriations from the ministries. Special provincial administrations have no power to levy taxes or charges.
Special provincial administrations undertake certain tasks across the province, and some others only in areas outside municipal boundaries, i.e. in villages.
Amendments to local government legislation in 2013 reduced the number of provinces with special provincial administrations to 51. Today, special provincial administrations cover a total area holding only 23% of the national population, corresponding to 17,727,408 people in the said 51 provinces. These provinces however have 18,247 villages with a total population of 5,190,797 making up 7% of the national population.
Special provincial administrations discharge the following functions across the province:
- Construct, maintain and repair primary and secondary schools and cultural centres;
- Develop preventive health services, social services, industry and trade, infrastructure for amateur sports;
- Develop agriculture;
- Execute the central government’s investments for which appropriations are transferred.
- The following are the functions that special provincial administrations discharge only in and for villages:
- Make land development plans;
- Supervise and license buildings;
- License businesses;
- Construct, maintain and repair village roads;
- Collect, store and dispose of waste;
- Protect and develop environment and soil;
- Reduce poverty.
Some functions of the special provincial administrations are complementary to those of the central government. For example, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock defines the national agricultural policies and supports the producers. Special provincial administrations implement projects that support agricultural infrastructure not to be contrary to the said policies.
Organs of the special provincial administration are the general provincial council, the provincial executive committee, and the governor. In addition, the secretary-general conducts, on behalf of the governor, the affairs of the special provincial administration. The secretary-general is appointed by the Minister of Interior on a proposal from the governor.
General provincial council
The general provincial council is the decision-making body of the special provincial administration. It has functions and powers similar to those of the municipal council. As in the case of municipal council, councillors are directly elected by popular vote to the general provincial council.
Councillors to a general provincial council are elected to represent districts. Table 1 gives the number seats in the general provincial council by district population
Table 1: Number of provincial councillors by district
Number of councillors
Up to 25,000
25,001 to 50,000
50,001 to 75,000
75,001 to 100,000
For districts with population larger than 100,000, one more seat per 100,000 of population is added in the general provincial council.
Provincial executive committee
The provincial executive committee is a mixed body as in the case of municipal executive committee. Three members to the committee are elected by the general provincial council and three other members are appointed by the governor, who is the chairman. The executive power of the special provincial administration is shared between the governor and the provincial executive committee. The committee implements the resolutions of the general provincial council. It also acts as a decision-making body on such matters as the sale and lease of property owned by the special provincial administration and other technical matters.
Representing the state in the province, the governor is also the figurehead and executive organ of the special provincial administration. Governors acted as the speaker of general provincial council until 2005 when legislative amendments allowed the councils to elect a speaker from among councillors. Today however, governors act as the chairman of the provincial executive committee.
Established first in Istanbul in the second half of the 19th century and then in other cities, municipalities had organizations, functions and responsibilities governed by a law enacted in 1930. Premised on a strong central tutelage on municipalities, the law of 1930 remained in effect for 85 years to be ultimately repealed in 2005.
In the said period, municipalities were established in many small settlements. The number of municipalities that stood at 421 in 1923 increased to 3,225 in 2002. However, since small municipalities have never been adequate financial resources and qualified staff, municipal services have always been subpar. The trend was then reversed, and the criterion of effectiveness for municipalities captured the limelight.
Table 2: Historical evolution of number of municipalities
Number of municipalities
To establish a sound population base for municipalities, town municipalities were merged to provincial or district municipalities in 2008.
A new legislation in 2013 accorded the metropolitan status to 14 more provinces, thus increasing the total from 16 to 30. Accompanied by this reform was the abolition of local governments other than municipalities, i.e. special provincial administrations and villages in these provinces. Town municipalities were abolished altogether to introduce radical changes in the municipal system.
Approximately 93% of the population in Turkey live within municipal boundaries. The recent amendments to the municipal system placed 78% of the national population within metropolitan municipality boundaries.
Table 3: Municipalities and population distribution
Type of municipality
Metropolitan district municipality
By mergers of municipalities and reorganization of local governments, the average municipal population went up to 51,937 from 19,765 almost tripling the population base. Still, there are 708 municipalities with population smaller than 10,000. On the other hand, 20 municipalities have population over 1,000,000.
Table 4: Municipalities by population categories
Number of municipalities
10,000 and below
10,001 to 50,000
50,001 to 100,000
100,001 to 250,000
250,001 to 1,000,000
Two cities in Turkey have population larger than 5 million, namely Istanbul 14,377,018 and Ankara 5,150,072.
The said legislative enactments were historically the most radical reform of local governments in Turkey. Small municipalities failed to develop institutional capacity, experiencing a multitude of problems in municipal services including land development planning. The abolition of small municipalities and implementation of metropolitan status in more provinces are expected to result in a more solid population base and improved effectiveness in resource deployment.
Villages as rural local governments have longer history than municipalities do. Village governance is critical for democracy though it has limited financial resources and budget. Mukhtar (village master) and executive committee representing the village are elected by direct popular vote.
Village, as a public legal personality, has full administrative and financial autonomy. Village administration consists of a mukhtar, an executive committee and a village association.
The mukhtar is both the representative of the village and symbolizes the state in the village. The Village Law was in enacted in 1924, in the early Republican era, and is still in effect. The Law imposes significant functions and responsibilities on the mukhtar as well as equips him/her with very important powers. The mukhtar plays an active role in ensuring the security of the village and procuring all public services. S/he facilitates the work of central government agencies.
The state pays every village mukhtar a salary approximately equal to the minimum wage for the public services s/he discharges.
Consisting of all voters in a village, the village association is the embodiment of direct democracy. It decides on the affairs of the village as well as levies individual contributions (salma) to the village budget and joint work (imece). The village association has power of disposal on village property.
Village voters elect, in addition to a mukhtar, an executive committee of 8 to 12 persons depending on the village population. The executive committee operates as the decision-making body and assists the mukhtar in village administration.
In the recent municipal mergers, villages within the new metropolitan municipalities were incorporated in municipalities, reducing the total number of villages in Turkey from about 35,000 to 18,247. Residing in these villages are 5,190,797 people corresponding to 7% of the national population, giving an average village population of 284.
While a neighbourhood has characteristics of a local government in one sense, it is not considered as such because it lacks a decision-making body, budget or legal personality. Towns, depending on their sizes, consist of several or more neighbourhoods. Currently 1,396 towns have 31,680 neighbourhoods. The smallest neighbourhood has a population of 11 whereas the largest one has 85,757. The average neighbourhood population size is 2,289.
The neighbourhood administration consists of a mukhtar (neighbourhood master) and an executive committee elected directly by the residents of the neighbourhood. Public services are usually organized on the basis of neighbourhoods, e.g. voter registers created by neighbourhoods.
The neighbourhood mukhtar serves as a bridging link between the neighbourhood residences and public bodies including particularly the municipality. The mukhtar discharges such significant functions as identifying the poor and provision of assistance, renewing voter registers, informing the relevant agencies of problems and failures in services of education, health, security and sanitation etc. Mukhtars receive a monthly payment from the state as do village mukhtars.