Local governments perform a lot of public administration tasks, and have a lot of responsiblities. They do not set countrywide laws, but they do implement laws, and they do sometimes make byelaws or alter broader policies.
In many countries, local government officials are elected through one set of elections, with the overall government being elected in a separate election. In some, it’s one election where people vote for their local MP, and then the party with the most elected MPs is the one that controls the central government.
Local governments are often down in the third or fourth tier of control in federal states, while in unitary states they take a higher degree of control and have more administrative power and therefore also more responsibility.
In Europe, there is more than just the issue of local MPs and central government to think about. Countries also have ‘MEPs’, members of the European Parliament, and these representatives are again, elected separately. Then there are, in some countries, elections for other positions – mayors, and police commissioners. This can make politics complex and confusing for a lot of voters, who are unsure exactly what they are voting for, the impact of their decisions, and who they are voting for.
Some informed voters may vote for a small, independent party for the local government, but consider that party a wasted vote in the main elections, and prefer to vote for “the main rival” rather than whoever they do not want to get into power. This is why it is so important for voters to be well educated, and for the media to keep people informed on a local and national level so that people both know when and how to utilize their vote, and the importance of making use of it.