It is my belief, and I think history bears me out, that the more distant the authority is, the higher the chance that something local will fill the void. Honestly, it is more likely that this is based not on how distant the authority is, but instead on how distant the authority is perceived to be.
What do I mean? If the king is in the capital and never comes to this town, then someone in the town is going to become the “town’s king”. It might be the mayor, whether elected or appointed by the king. Maybe the tax collector, the sheriff. Could be the local priest or whoever has the most money or the most employees. The same is true in neighborhoods in major cities. Can I show an example? Well, if the citizens believe the police are ineffective, it is common for a local gang to hold more power over the people than the police. I’m not only talking about street gangs here, but also about organized crime.
It is not always a bad thing. In exceptionally rural towns there have been situations where the local pastor gained the authority of law. His sermons may as well have been the laws of that town. It wasn’t that there wasn’t a police presence or an elected government, but the pastor was still the leader.
How does the “true” authority regain its place? By being more present. Today, it is easy to think about our government, but we have a 24 hour news cycle constantly streaming into our homes. In your fantasy world, some of those farming communities cannot even imagine what the king looks like. He’s nearly mythical to them. That allows the local power to take over. Life does not exist in the vacuum, because it fills the vacuum. How are the power vacuums in your smaller towns being filled?