I'm looking for the largest territory (by population) which satisfies the following criteria:

  1. A single person has all the decision making power in their hands, constrained only by whatever powers are delegated to said territory from a higher level of government. I.e. a mayor of a city that doesn't have a city council or where the mayor can completely ignore the city council if they so desire.
  2. Said person is elected democratically (directly or indirectly) in an election where the majority of the territory's residents can participate. So positions such as Saudi Arabia's King are excluded.
  3. The powers of said person can be executed de facto, not de jure. So the British Queen wouldn't count even if it was an elected position, as she doesn't exercise any of her powers directly these days.
  4. If no such notable positions exist these days, historical positions from within the past 100 years would count too.

Largest example that I'm aware of is Bartow County, Georgia, with a population of 107,738:

It has a sole commissioner government, and is the largest county by population of the few remaining in Georgia with a sole commissioner.

  • 2
    Two questions: Do you mean there is no legislature, etc. that the top person has to deal with? Like when you say "can ignore the city council, is that by law or by practice? And by elections, do they have to be legit? I am getting at would China or Russia qualify?
    – Damila
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:32
  • I assume this also means that there are no districts within the single person's region. Eg in London, there is a Mayor, and no London-wide council. But there are many bourough councils with local governance in some matters inside of London.
    – James K
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:38
  • @Damila there can be a city council, but the mayor should have the option to override it if they so desire to push through whatever regulations that they'd like. So the city council could vote 10-0 for option A, but the Mayor swoops in and goes for Option B and there's no one to stop him. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:45
  • @JamesK as per Wiki: "The Greater London Authority consists of two elected parts. They are the Mayor of London, who has executive powers, and the London Assembly, who scrutinise the Mayor's decisions and can accept or reject his budget proposals each year". So unfortunately the London Mayor does not have full power in his hands. Or am I missing something? Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:46
  • 2
    Surely the sole commissioner is subject to state and federal laws, and subject to whatever decisions are made in court. And I expect the county has at least one fire department and a police department with the chief holding power as well?
    – Abigail
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 23:48

1 Answer 1


While not directly elected, historically, local governments in France were governed by legislatively elected prefects in turn chosen by elected legislators, who held power similar to that a sole commissioner in a Georgia county with that system had.

As another example, in many jurisdictions, the district attorney, or sheriff, or other elected executive branch official, does not directly report to any other elected official and may have statutory budget protections.

For example, in Colorado, district attorneys are elected from multi-county judicial districts and are not accountable to any other elected officials except for funding which the funding agencies are required by law to provide at an "adequate" level. They don't report directly to either the state attorney general (as DAs in Florida do) or to county commissioners or sheriffs. But, of course, most of their actions must be ratified by judges and juries to have real effect.

Similarly, in Colorado, the Secretary of State, a statewide partisan elected official, isn't subordinate to the Governor and because the office's functions are predominantly funded via user's fees, isn't very accountable through the power of the purse, to the legislature either. Then again, the subject-matter of which this unilateral power is held is require limited.

In a lot of ways, the Prime Minister in a country that is unitary rather than federal, with a Westminster style parliamentary system with only one truly powerful legislative house, de facto, comes quite close to the "elected King" model. The Prime Minister of the U.K. isn't so far from this model, for example, at least in England proper. Yes, there are parliamentary votes, but once a P.M. is chosen, party discipline is such that the P.M.'s decision holds on any issue that the P.M. declares is not a "free vote" until an election is held or there is a defection in his party that causes him or her to lose the confidence of parliament.

  • 1
    I think you mean the prime minister of the United Kingdom, as there is no prime minister of England. But for certain areas, the parliament of the United Kingdom legislates only for England.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 6:16
  • 1
    Well, there's a term for this (latter) notion: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_dictatorship Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 9:12
  • @phoog Fixed it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 20:11
  • Well, Theresa May might disagree with you on the powers of the UK PM.. Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 23:58
  • @user2414208 It isn't a perfect analogy, because a UK PM can lose the confidence of his or her party or coalition at any time. But, it is closer than any elected official in any government with a strong Presidential system (e.g. the U.S., Russia, France, most of Latin America).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 1:19

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