Venezuela - Government

A new constitution was adopted in late 1999. It is widely seen as custom-made for Chávez. One of the longest constitutions in Latin America, the chart calls for a unicameral Assembly and gives the president an enormous power over other democratic institutions.

The constitution also allows the state to play a greater role in the economy, reducing the autonomy of the Central Bank. It reduces civilian oversight of the military. A novelty in Venezuela's constitution is a provision for midterm presidential plebiscites. If enough support exists, a plebiscite can be held three years after a presidential election. If the sitting president loses the plebiscite, she or he must resign from office. Other novel provisions regarding accountability instruments are also included in the constitution, but the social and political crises that emerged in 2001 have prevented many constitutional features from being fully implemented.

The president is elected by direct popular vote for a six-year term and the president can seek consecutive terms. In the previous constitution, a president could not run for reelection until 10 years after the completion of a term, but immediate reelection is now allowed. The president must be a native citizen, at least 30 years of age, and a "layman." Presidential duties include the selection and removal of cabinet ministers and all other administrative officers and employees of the national government, as well as the appointment of state governors. The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, directs foreign affairs, and may make and ratify international treaties, conventions, and agreements. In the former document, there was no vice president, but the new constitution created the vice presidential office.

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