Chile - Government

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Chile continued to feel the legacy of the Pinochet regime. The Constitution of 1980 is still in effect, even though it was created with a different Chile in mind. In 1989, a series of amendments went into effect, reducing the influence and power of the military and consolidating the power of elected authorities. The 1980 constitution, as amended, is the third Chilean constitution. The first two were the original 1833 constitution, and the 1925 chart. The 1980 constitution was custom-made for the Pinochet military dictatorship, but it did not come fully into effect until after Pinochet left office in March of 1990.

The constitution provides for a strong executive serving a six-year term. The president has the authority to proclaim a state of emergency for up to 20 days. He has the power to introduce legislation and control the legislative agenda. There is a bicameral National Congress, consisting of a 120-member Chamber of Deputies and a 46-member Senate. The Senate includes nine appointed members, as well as all ex-presidents, who have life membership. The constitution also provides for an independent judiciary, headed by a 21-member Supreme Court.

The constitution guarantees the active participation of the armed forces in government, establishes limitations on the right to strike and on freedom of information and expression, and institutionalizes a free-market economy. Although the Constitution was adopted under the Pinochet military dictatorship, several reforms starting in 1990 have made it more compatible with democratic standards. A new ambitious and comprehensive set of reforms championed by president Lagos is expected to further democratize the chart when adopted by the legislature before the end of 2003.

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