The Typology of Urban Management System in Iran, Trend of Changes and Prospect of Reforms

Document Type : Research Paper


1  Professor of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Art, Tehran, Iran.

2 Head of School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University, UK


Since the 1980s, local government systems in Europe have undergone significant institutional changes and territorial reforms. According to Wollmann (2008; 2012), these reforms seek to address two main issues, namely the lack of accountability and transparency (democratic deficit) and the inability to deal with social, economic and environmental problems (functional deficit). Some also believe that the expansion of local government reforms is due to the fact that this level of government is most affected by the continuation of the global financial crisis and austerity policies (Bouckaert and Kuhlmann, 2016; Gardner, 2017). The bulk of these reforms in European countries with different political and administrative systems, whether federal or unitary, as well as transitional systems in Eastern European countries, have focused on strengthening local executive and political leadership through the reforms of administrative structures, decentralization and increase of local autonomy (Ladner et al, 2016; Ladner et al, 2015). To this must be added changes in the local government types.
In Iran, above-mentioned democratic and functional deficits have led to various debates and research on the institutional, financial and operational dimensions of the local government in recent decades. These include Barakpour and keivani, 2016; Barakpour and Asadie, 2011 and show different and complicated problems in the country’s local management and leadership. Political, functional and territorial fragmentation, unsustainability of municipalities’ revenues and, generally, inefficiency of local leadership are regarded as instances of these problems.
The main purpose of this article is to investigate the typology of urban management system in Iran and the trend of its changes utilising historical and actor-centered institutionalism. According to this approach, three main stages in the establishment and development of the local government system in Iran can be distinguished and differentiated. The first period (1905-1930) returns to the Constitutional Revolution more than a century ago and the transition from traditional government to rule-based government and the formation of modern political institutions. The second period (1930-1978), shortly after the Constitutional Revolution, begins with the establishment of the Pahlavi regime and lasts about five decades. The third period (from 1979 to present) relates to Iran’s revolution of the 1970s and the establishment of the Islamic Republic four decades ago. Each one of these periods highlight different forms of the distribution of power between the central and local levels of government as well as the relations between legislative and Executive bodies. Analysis of the relationship between the main actors of power at the central and local levels indicates the general characteristics of the local government system in each period.
The results show that stability in the horizontal dimension and fluctuation in the vertical dimension of power relations, central government interference in local affairs, the lack of political resolve in decentralization, The Vague Prospect of Reforms in the Local Government System and Continued Procedural and Substantive Problems are the most important points in relation with urban management in Iran, especially in the contemporary era.

Keywords: Local government, Urban Management, power relations, municipality, city council, Iran


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