Municipalities in Turkey

A-    Municipalities in large cities

a-      Metropolitan municipalities

The practice of metropolitan municipality was first introduced in 1984 for Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, the largest three cities in Turkey. Over time, the status was accorded to 16 cities. In 2013, metropolitan municipalities were established in 14 provinces with population larger than 750,000 thus making the total figure 30.


When more provinces were accorded the metropolitan status in 2013, the local government system in such provinces was reorganized. The boundaries of metropolitan municipalities were extended to those of the respective provinces, and special provincial administrations villages were abolished. The metropolitan municipality, as the sole local government in such provinces in Turkey, assumed the local government services in the entire province.


Upon the conference of powers and responsibilities beyond the urban boundaries to cover an entire province, metropolitan municipalities are now in charge of rural administration in addition to urban administration.


The reform introduced a two-tier municipal system in the larger part of the country, empowering both district municipalities and metropolitan municipality in the same jurisdiction.


Metropolitan municipalities hold approximately 60 million of the national population of 77,695,904, that is 77% of the population live within metropolitan boundaries.


Local governments in metropolises


The rationale for metropolitan municipality practice:

  • It would not be possible to align services such as urban transport, infrastructure, water and sewer, environment and even land development undertaken by various municipalities in the same space.
  • It is required technically and for economies of scale to single-handedly plan and manage the said services for the entire urban space.
  • An administration, strengthened administratively and financially, is needed to plan and execute these services effectively and economically.

Major functions of metropolitan municipalities are as follows:

  • Prepare the higher scale (1/5,000 to 1/25,000) land development plans;
  • Approve the implementation plans (1/1,000 scale) prepared by districts;
  • Supervise the compliance of land development implementation by district municipalities with the plans;
  • Produce landlots and housing to ensure orderly urbanization, build infrastructure as required for industry and trade;
  • Draw up the metropolitan transport master plan, plan and implement public transport;
  • Build squares, boulevards, avenues and main roads;
  • Protect and develop the environment, agricultural land and water basins of the city;
  • Recycle and store solid waste;
  • Deliver water and sewer services;
  • Build open and closed parking spaces;
  • Build regional parks, zoos, museums, sporting, leisure and recreational facilities;
  • Build cemeteries, wholesale food markets and slaughterhouses;
  • Provide fire-fighting and emergency services.


b-     Metropolitan district municipalities

In the cities where the metropolitan model is in effect, micro services are entrusted to district municipalities. Today 519 districts are within the metropolitan boundaries, collectively serving a population of 60 million.

Major functions of district municipalities are as follows:

  • Street upkeep and hygiene;
  • Collect domestic waste;
  • Prepare implementation plans (1/1,000 scale);
  • Issue building licenses;
  • Social municipal services (reducing poverty, social aid, skills training for the unemployed);
  • Promote amateur sports;
  • Education, sports and culture services.

Since district municipalities are the first tier municipalities and their councils are directly elected by people, they perform a significant function for civic participation in governance.


c-      Relation of metropolitan and district municipalities

Since they operate in the same jurisdiction and their services are complementary in nature, metropolitan and district municipalities need to work in close cooperation and coordination. Otherwise, gaps or overlaps may occur in municipal services, or even conflicts of functions or powers. The metropolitan municipality is tasked with ensuring coordination and resolving disputes among municipalities in the metropolitan area.


To avoid any adversities, the metropolitan council is constituted of district mayors and highest voted councillors (one fifth) of district councils.


The law establishes a relation of tutelage between metropolitan and district municipalities.


  • A hierarchy is established to ensure the integrity of land development administration, entrusting the power of making higher scale plans metropolitan municipality and the implementation plans to district municipalities.
  • Implementation plans of district municipalities are subject to approval by the metropolitan council.
  • Budgets of district municipalities are subject to approval by the metropolitan council.
  • Where there is a dispute between a district municipality and the metropolitan municipality or between district municipalities, the metropolitan council has the power to pass a directive and regulative resolution.

Some of the metropolitan municipal functions may be delegated by a resolution of the metropolitan council upon the consent of district municipalities such as:

  • Passenger and freight terminals;
  • Open and closed parking spaces;
  • Cemeteries and burial services;
  • Wholesale food markets and slaughterhouses;
  • Special permits for food markets and slaughterhouses;
  • Address assignment and building numbering.

Some functions of district municipalities on the other hand may be discharged by the metropolitan municipality or jointly by the metropolitan and district municipalities with the costs borne by district municipalities.


d-     Affiliated entities of metropolitan municipalities

In the metropolises where at least 750,000 people live (Istanbul 14,377,018), certain services as water and sewer and public transport are provided by affiliated entities of the municipality. Of such entities, water and sewer administrations are established by law, according them public legal personality and a separate budgetary power.


While water and sewer administrations are already established in all metropolitan municipalities, affiliated entities for public transport have to date been established only in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.


Affiliated entities under the public law, and are not allowed to pursue profits although they produce and sell services. Public transport services are particularly subsidized by municipalities.


Water and sewer administrations are under the oversight of metropolitan municipalities. The metropolitan mayor is the chairperson of the governing board of such entities, with executive powers entrusted to a director-general.


The organization and functioning of water and sewer administrations are laid down by a specific law. Their organization is configured by the metropolitan council within the framework of principles established by the Ministry of Interior and the State Personnel Department. A total of 25,536 employees work in the affiliated entities of municipalities.



Major functions of water and sewer administrations are as follows:

  • Supply potable, non-potable and industrial water to the city, distribute to users and operate the system;
  • Remove and treat waste water and storm water;
  • Protect water sources, seas, lakes and rivers in the region against pollution.


B-    Municipalities in other provinces

Where 30 provinces have the metropolitan system, the remaining 51 provinces of Turkey have a single-tier municipal system. Local services in these provinces are usually delivered by municipalities in the urban areas, and by special provincial administrations in the rural areas. Special provincial administrations are additionally in charge of such public services as agriculture, livestock, sports, culture and education within the remit of the central government in the entire province including municipal areas.


Major functions of non-metropolitan municipalities are as follows:

  • Make land development plans of all scales;
  • Issue building licenses;
  • Issue business licenses;
  • Provide water and sewer services;
  • Collect and dispose of waste;
  • Protect environment, create green areas and parks;
  • Ensure orderly urbanization and produce landlots and housing to that end;
  • Build infrastructure as required for economy and trade;
  • Provide fire-fighting and emergency services;
  • Build cemeteries, provide burial services;
  • Reduce poverty;
  • Provide culture, arts, sports, tourism and publicity services;
  • Build and maintain schools and places of worship owned by the state (optional).


C-    Local governments in a non-metropolitan province


a-      Provincial municipalities

Provincial municipalities (in 51 provinces) have no hierarchical or tutelage relation with district or town municipalities within the same province. However, these municipalities may form or join in municipal associations by own free will to jointly discharge certain services as waste management, water supply etc.

The 51 non-metropolitan provincial municipalities hold a total population of 6,502,018 corresponding to 9% of the total population within municipal boundaries.


b-     District municipalities

Non-metropolitan provinces have a total of 400 districts. The functions and organization of provincial municipalities are not different than those of district municipalities except for the scale. Resolutions of district municipal councils shall not enter into force without being communicated to district governors, the representatives of the central government. District governors though are not authorized to refer a resolution back to the council.

District municipalities hold a total population of 4,815,668 corresponding to 7% of the total population within municipal boundaries.


c-      Town municipalities

Towns usually have only the municipality as a public organization. There are 396 town municipalities in Turkey, with a total population of 1,218,925 corresponding to 2% of the total population within municipal boundaries. As in other municipalities, towns also have a municipal council, a municipal executive committee and a mayor. Towns are usually of rural nature, engaged in agriculture and livestock husbandry as major means of livelihood.

The same law prescribes the functions and responsibilities of provincial, district and town municipalities without distinction. Except for metropolitan municipalities, all municipalities have the same organization, functions and powers.