Istanbul - Administration

Administration

Since 2004, Istanbul has been one of only two cities in Turkey (the other being İzmit) whose city boundaries are concurrent with the boundaries of its province. The city, considered capital of Istanbul Province, is administered by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (MMI), which oversees the thirty-nine districts of the city-province.

The current city structure can be traced back to the Tanzimat period of reform in the 19th century, before which Islamic judges and imams led the city under the auspices of the Grand Vizier. Following the model of French cities, this religious system was replaced by a mayor and a citywide council composed of representatives of the confessional groups (millet) across Istanbul. Beyoğlu was the first area of the city to have its own director and council, with members instead being longtime residents of the neighborhood. Laws enacted after the Ottoman constitution of 1876 aimed to expand this structure across the city, imitating the twenty arrondissements of Paris, but they were not fully implemented until 1908, when Istanbul was declared a province with nine constituent districts. This system continued beyond the founding of the Turkish Republic, with the province renamed a belediye (municipality), but the municipality was disbanded in 1957.

Small settlements adjacent to major population centers in Turkey, including Istanbul, were merged into their respective primary cities during the early 1980s, resulting in metropolitan municipalities. The main decision-making body of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is the Municipal Council, with members drawn from district councils. The Municipal Council is responsible for citywide issues, including managing the budget, maintaining civic infrastructure, and overseeing museums and major cultural centers. Since the government operates under a "powerful mayor, weak council" approach, the council's leader—the metropolitan mayor—has the authority to make swift decisions, often at the expense of transparency. The Municipal Council is advised by the Metropolitan Executive Committee, although the Committee also has limited power to make decisions of its own. All representatives on the Committee are appointed by the metropolitan mayor and the Council, with the mayor—or someone of his or her choosing—serving as head.

Meanwhile, district councils are chiefly responsible for waste management and construction projects within their respective districts. They each maintain their own budgets, although the metropolitan mayor reserves the right to review district decisions. One-fifth of all district council members, including the district mayors, also represent their districts in the Municipal Council. All members of the district councils and the Municipal Council, including the metropolitan mayor, are elected to five-year terms. Representing the Justice and Development Party, Kadir Topbaş has been Mayor of Istanbul since March 2004.

With the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Istanbul Province having equivalent jurisdictions, few responsibilities remain for the provincial government. Similar to the MMI, the Istanbul Special Provincial Administration has a governor, a democratically elected decision-making body—the Provincial Parliament—and an appointed Executive Committee. Mirroring the executive committee at the municipal level, the Provincial Executive Committee includes a secretary-general and leaders of departments that advise the Provincial Parliament. The Provincial Administration's duties are largely limited to the building and maintenance of schools, residences, government buildings, and roads, and the promotion of arts, culture, and nature conservation. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu has been Governor of Istanbul Province since May 2010.

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