My research explores how poor urban dwellers politicize the city. I spent approximately two years in Tunisia studying a decentralization program the government set up in response to the 2011 revolution. I observed participatory planning meetings and followed the housing trajectories of poor women who built their homes in far-flung peripheries and enlisted their men and kin networks in bringing services to their neighborhoods. My research shows that these poor dwellers are inventing the institutions of democratic governance by making claims for basic infrastructure – paved roads, water and electricity – at the municipal level. Municipal officials address their claims by extending the promise of infrastructure provision. I develop the concept of governing through expectation to describe this mode of rule. Furthermore, I argue that governing through expectation is a democratic multi-scalar mode of rule.