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World > South America > Chile > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Chile - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Chile's Constitution was approved in a September 1980 national plebiscite. It entered into force in March 1981. After Pinochet's defeat in the 1988 plebiscite, the Constitution was amended to ease provisions for future amendments to the Constitution. In September 2005, President Ricardo Lagos signed into law several constitutional amendments passed by Congress. These include eliminating the positions of appointed senators and senators for life, granting the President authority to remove the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces, and reducing the presidential term from six to four years.

Presidential and congressional elections were held December 2005 and January 2006. In the first round of presidential elections, none of the four presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote. As a result, the top two vote-getters--center-left Concertacion coalition?s Michelle Bachelet and center-right Alianza coalition?s Sebastian Pinera--competed in a run-off election on January 15, 2006, which Michelle Bachelet won. This was Chile?s fourth presidential election since the end of the Pinochet era. All four have been judged free and fair. The President is constitutionally barred from serving consecutive terms. President Bachelet and the new members of Congress took office on March 11, 2006.

Chile has a bicameral Congress, which meets in the port city of Valparaiso, about 140 kilometers (84 mi.) west of the capital, Santiago. Deputies are elected every 4 years, and Senators serve 8-year terms. Chile's congressional elections are governed by a unique binomial system that rewards coalition slates. Each coalition can run two candidates for the two Senate and two Deputy seats apportioned to each electoral district. Historically, the two largest coalitions (Concertacion and Alianza) split most of the seats in a district. Only if the leading coalition ticket out-polls the second-place coalition by a margin of more than 2-to-1 does the winning coalition gain both seats.

In the December 11, 2005 congressional elections, the Concertacion coalition won a majority in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. In the 38-member Senate, the Concertacion coalition holds 20 seats and the Alianza opposition holds 17. There is one independent. In the 120-member Chamber of Deputies, the Concertacion coalitions holds 65 seats and the Alianza holds 54. There is one independent.

Chile's judiciary is independent and includes a court of appeal, a system of military courts, a constitutional tribunal, and the Supreme Court. In June 2005, Chile completed a nation-wide overhaul of its criminal justice system. The reform has replaced inquisitorial proceedings with an adversarial system more similar to that of the United States.

Principal Government Officials
President--Michelle BACHELET Jeria
Minister of Interior--Belisario Velasco
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Alejandro FOXLEY Rioseco
Ambassador to the United States--Mariano Fernández
Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS)--Pedro OYARCE Yuraszeck
Ambassador to the United Nations--Heraldo MUNOZ Valenzuela

Chile maintains an embassy in the United States at 1732 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036; tel: 202-785-1746, fax: 202-659-9624, email: embassy@embassyofchile.org.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions - Chilean Peso Exchange Rates
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions
Chilean Peso Exchange Rates


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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