As of 1994, the country was divided into 12 provinces, each governed by a representative provincial council (Provinciale Staten). Its members are elected by direct universal suffrage. The size of the council depends on the number of inhabitants in the province. Members are elected for four-year terms. From among their members, the councils elect provincial executives (Gedeputeerde Staten) with six to eight members. Each province has a commissioner appointed by and representing the crown.
The municipalities (496 in 2003) are administered by municipal councils, which are elected directly for four-year terms by the local inhabitants and make local bylaws. The executive powers of the municipality are entrusted to a corporate board consisting of a burgomaster and two to six aldermen; the latter are elected from and by the council, while the burgomaster is appointed by the crown. The important function of flood control and water management is exercised by autonomous public authorities, some of which date as far back as the 13th century.