Municipal building, Guayaquil
Courtesy Embassy of Ecuador, Washington
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
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.
Data as of 1989