Democracy, Legitimacy and Local Government Electoral Reform

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Local government electoral system reforms have been implemented in many countries across Europe during the past two decades. These reforms have, by and large, shifted power from the local councils to the mayors, primarily through adoption of a system of direct election of mayors. The reforms are promoted with the aim of making decision-makers more accountable, and improving the effectiveness of policymaking. Governance by directly elected mayors differs from that of their predecessors, with greater power and increased interaction with a variety of other actors. Although there has been a good deal of research on the effect of a shift to direct elections on mayors, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the impact of this kind of reform on local councils. While these reforms are relatively new in Europe, Israel enacted similar reforms more than three decades ago. This research examines the effect of the adoption of direct election of mayors in Israel and the way in which it affected voting behaviour and the roles of local councils. The research shows that the move to directly elected mayors led to greater political fragmentation by reducing the incentive to vote for the larger national parties, which virtually disappeared from local councils. The consequences of this type of reform in Israel raise important considerations in terms of local decision-making, governance and pluralism for similar local government reforms in other countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-63
Number of pages23
JournalLocal Government Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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