pope and the sovereignty of the emperor and began appointing their own consuls, giving them final authority in judicial matters. While the majority of the countries of central Europe continued to have feudal and monarchic political structures, many cities of north and central Italy promoted republican forms of government, in contrast to monarchic governments which were held to be legitimate because they were thought to have come from God straight into the hands of men. The principle that distinguishes the Italian city-republics from the rest of the European monarchies lies in the implementation of a basic principle of contemporary democracies: that all political offices must be elective and held for limited periods of time. Naturally, this does not mean that in these forms of government regular democratic elections were held, because the right to vote was the privilege of a few, limited to male heads of households, who were required to demonstrate ownership of substantial property in the city and to have been born in the city where they were participating in political life. To establish the composition of the city councils, the city was divided into electoral districts, or in some cases, contradas, within which the citizens were allowed to vote to decide whom to seat on the city councils and whom to elect as rulers.