History of the Councils
Enforcement of Councils Act, today known as municipal councils, dates back to the establishment of first legislature in Iran: The National Consultative Assembly.
One of the first laws passed by that parliament was Municipality Act in 1907, thus, materializing one of the most important goals of the Constitutional Revolution. Recognizing the right of citizens to elect and be elected to manage the affairs of their cities is among their political rights.
Therefore, the first historical juncture in which councils laws should be studied is when political rights of the Iranian people were realized. It was the early years of 1900s when the Constitutional Revolution became victorious and the National Consultative Assembly started to pass laws.
In the course of more than 95 years which have passed since ratification of the first municipal law in our country, urban and rural councils have gone through many ups and downs. The first law pertaining to Islamic municipal councils was approved in 1982.
Afterwards, that law had changed five times.
The final version of it was approved in the fifth term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) in 1996. After election of President Khatami the way was paved for holding Islamic councils elections and the first such election was held on March 8, 1999 in which people took part enthusiastically in more than 40,000 jurisdictions.
Finally, about 200,000 people were elected to run municipal affairs of cities and villages as members of the Islamic city councils. The councils started their work on May 29, 1999.
The first law of city councils or city associations in its initial interpretation dates back to the beginning
of Constitutional Revolution in 1907 (1286). According to this law, which was passed by the then
Parliament, the law of municipality, as one of the great ideals of the Constitution, recognized for the
first time the political rights of the Iranian people and granted to the citizens the right to elect and be
elected in the management and administration of the city. The law was amended and changed in over
a century. The mentioned law views the urban management as a combination of the traditional city
council and the affiliated departments and agencies.
After Reza Shah Pahlavi took the power, he hired an American adviser on urban governance and an
American engineer on urban planning to start the reforms in Tehran in October 1299. Reza Shah
overruled the traditional municipality law passed in 1286, and enacted another municipality law in
1309 to further centralize the planning system and supply the municipal budget. he law assigned the
election of the mayor and other members of the municipality to the Ministry of Interior. Although
this law could solve the problems including the finance for the administration of the municipality, it
undermined the role of the traditional municipality and as a result the municipality aspirations held
under constitutional law in the field of participation of citizens in the administration of the affairs.
The third law of the country’s municipality called “the law of establishing the municipalities and
Associations of cities and villages” was enacted in 1949 and was replaced for the earlier legislation.
Though the law seemed modern compared to the previous law, which was enacted by Reza Khan,
it did not completely assigned the decision-making and election of mayors to the City Council.
After the overthrow of the government of Dr. Mossadegh, Shah quickly embarked upon consolidating
his power base. In the meantime, the new municipal law was approved by the Joint Commission on
July 2nd, 1955. The new law was the same as the law of the municipality in which reforms were carried
out. According to the law of 1955, any municipality district had an association called city association,
whose members were elected directly through secret votes of the relative majority for four years. The
meeting attendance fee was based on a code approved by Ministry of Interior and enacted by the
cabinet. Before that, being a member of city association was honorary. The right to elect the mayor was
no longer given to the association members.
Numerous articles of the law of municipality, enacted in 1955 were reconsidered, but its generality
is still the same. According to this law, the municipality was divided into two departments of policy
making and administration. Policy making and planning was up to the city association and the
execution was with the mayor.
A macro view of council regulations from 1286 to 1357 shows that at the beginning of establishment
of municipality in Iran, the administrative organization of municipality was designed in a way that
in which the traditional municipality association was not separated from the traditional municipality
itself, and the association chief acted as the sherif or mayor employed by the government, and
every member of the association headed commissions of administrating the afairs of the traditional
municipality. This administrative combination was different from what is now common. In the new
combination, there is a separate municipality, and the council only regulates the municipality. Other
features are that no governmental institution has the power to dissolve the association or the council.