Why Do Countries Have Multiple Capitals?

In the world, there are several countries that have different capitals, South Africa is just one example, but there are many more.

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LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué Sudáfrica y otros países tienen varias capitales?

Modern nations have characteristics that are repeated throughout the planet, one of them is to concentrate all the powers of the State in the same place, in the same city. But there are some countries that have identified the division of republican powers in different cities as a good way of managing.

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These are countries that have different capital cities and the reasons why these decisions were made.


In the highland country, there is also a country with two capitals. Bolivia has the constitutional capital, Sucre, and an executive capital, La Paz. This means that by the constitution, the city that governs as capital is Sucre. However, the powers of the State meet in the city of La Paz.

This happens because, in principle, Sucre was, and is, an economic and cultural center of the Andean country. It was in this country where the signing of the Act of Independence took place. However, during a civil war in 1898, the liberals of La Paz who opted for a federalist government defeated the conservative and centralist side of Sucre. After the victory, the powers of the State were exercised from La Paz and have been so ever since. Today in La Paz, there are legislative, executive, and electoral powers. However, in Sucre, the judicial power is maintained, headed by the Supreme Court of Justice.


In addition to the renowned Tegucigalpa, Honduras also has another capital. This is the city of Comayagüela. Since 1937, this neighboring city of Tegucigalpa has served as the constitutional capital. However, it is in "Tegu" where the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress, and the Presidency function.


Although it is unknown to many, Chile can enter the list of countries with more than one capital. For many, it is known that Santiago serves as the seat of the Government of Chile, but Valparaiso is the seat of the legislative power.

This happened because, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), the military ordered the Congress to be moved to the second most important city. It was fair that since March 1990, and after 16 years of legislative recess due to the dictatorship, the city of Buenos Aires served as legislative headquarters. Since then, Valparaiso has been the legislative capital of Chile.


Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is a small country located in southeastern Africa. In the city of Lobamba, are the legislative powers. For its part, Mbabane is the seat of executive power, although, being an absolutist monarchy, Mbabane is more the administrative capital of Eswatini. This city is the headquarters of the Central Bank and it is the most populous and economically important city.

The reason? Like many cases in Africa: colonialism. Although Lobamba was always the seat of regional power in this area, after the British invasion, Mbabane began to take on greater importance due to its strategic location and was the center of British administration at the end of its colonial era. This is why today the two capitals are a conciliation between the past and the present of the country.

South Africa

Just south of Eswatini is another country on this list. South Africa is the most recognized nation for having different capital cities. In the absence of a capital city, South Africa has three. Pretoria serves as the administrative and executive capital; Cape Town is the legislative capital, where the parliament is; and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

Pretoria was the South African capital during the Apartheid period. It is an educational and development center in the country. Cape Town is one of the main tourist destinations in the country and the second most populous in the country. While Bloemfontein is located in the geographical center of the country and is where the Supreme Court of Appeals works. It is noteworthy that the Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country) operates in Johannesburg.


This small nation located in West Africa, between Togo, Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso, has Porto Novo as its official and legislative capital, but Cotonou as the de facto seat of government.

As the name suggests, Porto-Novo was chosen as the capital during the period of Portuguese and French colonization. Since then, it has been the center of the slave trade for all of Benin. However, at the same time, Cotonou was also an important financial hub and today it is the most populous city in the country. Like Bolivia, many people will still consider a single capital in Benin, which by the constitution is Porto Novo.


Now, on the Asian continent, we find the constitutional monarchy of Malaysia. Its capitals are Putrajaya as the administrative and judicial capital, and Kuala Lumpur as the executive and legislative capital.

The reasons for having two capitals are several. But to understand, you must know that Putrajaya is a planned city, which was built from 0 to be the capital of the country (similar to what happened with Brasilia in Brazil). Kuala Lumpur was always the capital of the kingdom and the most important city, but due to the overpopulation and congestion that exists in this city, in 1999 the federal government moved to Putrajaya, just 40 kilometers to the south.

Sri Lanka

Finally, the last country on the list is the small island located in the Indian Ocean, a few kilometers from the coast of India: Sri Lanka. In this nation, there is the city of Colombo as the executive and judicial capital, and Kotte as the legislative seat. However, Kotte is still located in the Colombo metropolitan area. However, the initial plan was, and still is, to move the capital entirely to Kotte, this in order to allocate Colombo as a commercial capital only and make room for this type of activity.