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Iran - Local Government

As of 1987, Iran was divided into twenty-four provinces (ostans). Each province was subdivided into several counties (shahrestans). Shahrestans numbered 195, each of which was centered on the largest town within its boundaries. Most shahrestans took their names from those towns that served as county seats. All of the shahrestans consisted of two or more districts, or bakhshs. The 498 bakhshs were further subdivided into rural subdistricts (dehestans). Each dehestan consisted of several villages dispersed over an average area of 1,600 square kilometers.

The pre-revolutionary provincial administrative structure was still employed in 1987. Thus, each province was headed by a governor general (ostandar), who was appointed by the minister of interior. Each county was headed by a governor (farmandar), also appointed by the minister of interior. Local officials, such as the chiefs of districts (bakhshdars), rural subdistricts (dehyars), and villages (kadkhudas), were appointed by the provincial governors general and county governors. These local officials served as representatives of the central government.

Prior to the Revolution, the governor general was the most powerful person in each province. After 1979, however, the clerical imam jomehs, or prayer leaders, have exercised effective political power at the provincial level. The imam jomeh was the designated representative of the faqih in each county. Until 1987 each imam jomeh was appointed from among the senior clergy of the county. In June 1987, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini approved guidelines for the election of imam jomehs. The imam jomehs have tended to work closely with the komitehs (revolutionary committees) and the Pasdaran, and in most counties these organizations are subordinate to the imam jomehs.

As of 2007 Iran was divided into 30 provinces. The provinces are subdivided into counties (321 in 2007), districts, and villages. Each province was still administered by a governor general appointed by the central government. The governor general, in consultation with the Ministry of Interior, then appointed the governor of each county in the province and, in consultation with the latter, the chief of each district. At the local level, directly elected city and village councils have exerted substantial authority since the first local elections in 1999.




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