The political systems in the three great cities of the Martic League are similar, being based around an elected council. In Lacramar, this consists of the Lord Protector, The Holder of the Treasury, the Taxwarden, Clerk, Chief Justice, Sheriff, Marshal, City Watchwarden, the Captain of the City Guard and the Shipwarden. Their basic functions are to oversee the maintenance of the city's defences, the collection of tax and the policing of order in the city. Below each of these worthies is a bureaucratic staff who do the day to day running of the various agencies, mostly through local committees of citizens appointed on a case-by-case basis and paid for their services. As an example, if some citizens complain to the council that they have problems with fearless packs of Rhakhar attacking folk on dark nights, the council might debate the problem and then assign 500 thanen from the treasury to the Sheriff to hire Rhakhar-hunters. He passes the job onto one of his subordinates who might contact the complaining citizens and get them to pass the word around concerning the job - or simply post a bounty on Rhakhar-pelts.
Citizenship can be gained by any person who can produce reputable witnesses (i.e. people who are already citizens) to show that he has resided in the city for three years, paid his foreigner's tax, committed no crimes and has a place of permanent residence. If this is done, the factors of the Taxwarden assess his personal holdings and assign him his half-yearly tax, and he is then free to reside in the city, trade freely and join an electoral ward, if he is able to find residence there. That's not as easy as it sounds, since many wards are particular about who they allow to live within their boundaries.
The council is elected once very three years, by the citizens, but the system of voting is fairly complex. Originally it was based on guilds. with the masters of the various guilds meeting to cast a simple vote for or against candidates for each position. That system remains in Ilthmar, but in Irilian and Lacramar it has been superseded by a system of electoral wards. These correspond roughly (very roughly) to the areas of the city where each guild used to be preeminent, but since then each city has changed greatly, and so there is no particular correspondence today. Each ward holds rancorous political meetings - which any citizen living in that ward can attend, and over a series of meetings they hammer out who their support will be given to. Normally this support is given in exchange for promises of favors - or more simply bribes given to leading citizens - to push the vote for one candidate or other. Wealthy citizens and guildmasters often get their workers to come along to help sway the crowd, and packing the crowd with supporters who are not citizens or come from another ward routinely happens. Political meetings often erupt into brawls and occasionally into serious riots. It is thus normal for weapons to be forbidden! Each ward gets one vote, but not all wards are of the same size - the wealthier areas contain much smaller wards and thus they gain proportionately more votes than the rest of the city. Irilian has but 18 electoral wards, Ilthmar has 26 senior guilds, which perform the same function and Lacramar has 62 wards.
In addition to the council, there are a number of other positions of influence within the city. Some are hereditary, others appointed by the council - and thus normally used to pay off the councilor's supporters. These positions have long been the purview of the elite within the city, particularly in Ilthmar. In that city the council is elected by the guilds which always block-vote for the candidates selected by their guildmasters. Since the guilds controls access to membership by requiring an approved apprenticeship, regulating permission to operate a business or hire new guild members, they can easily keep undesirables out. Further, since excises and taxes are set by the council, they protect the interests of their supporters by taxing non-guild businessmen completely out of business.
In Irilian and Lacramar, the same guild structure exists, but the real power is held by the "great families" - rich merchant houses with diverse interests. Many guildmasters owe their first allegiance to such a family. Sometimes these families dominate a particular trade such as the Fimbrocha in Lacramar who are the the city's wealthiest moneylenders. They not only dominate money lending in that city but have agents in many smaller towns and in the other cities who can arrange loans and transfers of funds. Other times, a great family may have many interests, such as the trading house Androcha, which owns a grain import business in Lacramar and several large estates in the hinterlands, a pottery business in Orlane, a 40% holding in a Destrier-importing business based in Saharn at the far end of the Mithil sea, a one-quarter holding in a timber cutting firm, 3 taverns in Lacramar, one (secretly held by an appointee) in Ilthmar and one in Irilian, a copper import business, plus a warrant allowing them tax exemptions on metal imports through Irilian in exchange for supplying weapons at low cost to the City Watch (for a fee, they sometimes ship metals for other businesses using this warrant), a three-quarter's holding in a scriptorium, a small shipping business and a company (about 300 men) of good quality mercenaries. These men are hired out to others from time to time, but they are always paid directly through house Androcha. These great families operate businesses over great distances and outside the cities, they often carry on covert wars to control trade routes. Inside city limits, assassination is more common than direct assault, so most wealthy houses are well defended.
Of course the guilds of Ilthmar will go to great lengths to avoid such merchant houses getting a toehold in their city, hence the need for House Androcha to own their tavern in Ilthmar covertly.