Iraq until 2003 was divided into 18 provinces (three of which formed an autonomous Kurdish region), each headed by an appointed governor. Provinces were subdivided into districts, each under a deputy governor; a district consists of counties, the smallest units, each under a director. Towns and cities were administered by municipal councils led by mayors. Baghdad's municipality, the "governorate of the capital," under its mayor, or "guardian of the capital," served as a model municipality. A settlement reached with the Kurds in 1970 provided for Kurdish autonomy on the local level. In 1974, the provisional constitution was further amended to provide the Kurdistan region with an elected 80-member legislative council; elections were held in 1980 and 1986, but, in fact, the Iraqi army controlled Kurdistan until the imposition of a UN-approved protected zone in the north at the end of the Gulf War. In May 1992, Kurds held elections there for a new 100-member parliament for the quasi-independent region. This marked the only relatively free elections held in Iraq in several decades.
Local governing authority broke down following the fall of the Iraqi regime in April 2003. US and British troops were responsible for policing the country, and for restoring electricity, running water, sanitation, and other essential services.