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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK

Are big city mayors becoming a threat to the nation state?

"Since cities are going to play a very important role in forthcoming times, you can't say it will be attractive for a mayor to jump into the function of Prime Minister."
Marc Visser, director of the Megacities 2000 Foundation

"Big cities, like Paris, have been used as a springboard for its mayor rather than as an instrument challenging the role of the state."
Jacques Reland, professor of French and European Studies at London's Guildhall University

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Listen to our debate hosted by Laurence Zavriew. Do you agree with the views of our contributors?

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The Vote:
Are big city mayors becoming a threat to the nation state?
Yes No

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The Background:

Europe's mayors - or would-be mayors - are in the news this week. Here in London, the race for who will be the Labour party candidate to the new post of mayor of London is hotting up.

Talking Point - Europewide
Labour loyalist Frank Dobson is the preferred candidate for the party; while former London council leader Ken Livingstone, a Labour maverick, is still riding high in the polls.

In Paris meanwhile, a high-profile trial involving the wife of the current mayor, Jean Tiberi, is threatening the long-lasting hold of the centre right RPR on the city; and has implications for President Jacques Chirac -- Mr Tiberi's predecessor.

The mayors of Europe's leading cities hold powerful positions - they're not just local, but often national political figures as well, and can, like Mr Chirac, use their position to further their national ambitions.

Is this as it should be? Or should the mayors focus their attentions on their cities, first and foremost?

Conversely, in a Europe where regional devolution is increasing, are big-city mayors becoming a threat to the nation-state?

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Your Reaction:

People in each town have the right for self-government and the mayor is just the personification of this self-government. Besides, when mayors become involved in national politics, they gradually leave their posts. There are many examples, from Jacques Chirac at the West to V. Sysujev (Samara, Russia) at the East.
Andrej, Russia

Well, if they're anything like our politicians, then all they are to me are an expense taken out of my wage packet and full of hot air and false promises. I don't know why we have them in the first place!
Jason, UK

I think that the office of mayor, one with teeth, will concentrate minds effectively on local issues. London definitely needs to focus on transport, this issue will only be tackled when there is someone with the power to initiate solutions.
The office will undoubtedly attract sleaze from time to time, but that is expected of any area of politics. I am at a loss to understand what the big deal is about the nation state. We are consumers not citizens, yet we continue to perpetuate this myth of the nation state.
Tom, Australia

Mayors should have a very limited amount of power. After living here in Brazil for 10 years I have come to the conclusion that nearly all of its woes come from its bloated political system where the mayor has too much autonomy (every town has a government with ministers and everything), the state governor has too much autonomy (every state has a government with ministers and everything), and the central government, which also has ministers for everything imaginable, ends up with the bill for everybody's excesses (including its own).
The resultant plethora of laws and taxes is incomprehensible, which is precisely why so many people disregard them entirely. Nobody is answerable to anyone. Too much devolution is a disaster. Local government should be limited to deciding the position of zebra crossings and the like. Any powerful mayor is not so much a threat to the nation state as just a complete hindrance to the efficient running of it.
Graham Bell, Brazil

The dilemma some cities Mayors pose to nation-states is overwhelmed. The emergence of Mayorism to the social life of a city cannot be divorced from the gigantic problems of Crimes and some other social ills the mega-city has generated. And a State cannot elect someone who is not familiar with the social life of a city. nd it is a rare phenomenon to find some, among the cities Mayor who are not the "Godfather of inner city gangs". May I say here, that there must be a mechanism to deter them from taking the total control of the State Affairs, they are potentially dangerous to the part and parcel of a nation-state.
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

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Are big city mayors becoming a threat to the nation state?

Votes so far:


Yes: 33% No: 67%

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