The republic is divided administratively into provinces, cantons (municipalities), and parishes. Provinces are governed by a governor, cantons by a political chief (jefe político), and parishes by a political lieutenant. These officials all answer to, and are appointed by, the president or the executive branch. The Ministry of National Defense administers the Galápagos Islands.
Each of the twenty-one provinces has an autonomous provincial council, headed by a prefect who has only a deciding vote in case of ties in the council. The council, which has jurisdiction throughout the province and a seat in its capital, maintains public services, carries out public works, coordinates municipal activities, and informs the central government of budget expenditures. A municipal council, presided over by a mayor empowered to cast a deciding vote in case of ties, is responsible for the government of each canton, of which there were 103 in the late 1980s.
All provincial and municipal officials are elected for a fouryear period by direct and secret popular vote. In elections for mayor, president of the municipal council, and provincial prefect, the candidates who obtain the greatest number of votes are elected. Councils at both levels have functional, financial, and administrative autonomy. Their legislative decisions are issued in the form of ordinances.
The 746 parishes that existed in the late 1980s were predominantly rural areas governed by a political lieutenant and a parish council within its area of responsibility; over 100 were classified as urban parishes. Although the urban parishes were mainly voting districts, the rural ones also had municipal functions. The parish council is responsible for improving public services, executing public works, investing revenues, and carrying out any other duties required by law. Its members are elected by direct popular vote to serve a four-year term.
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