Chile’s Constitutional Convention Approves Proposal to Replace the Senate

The convention, charged with drawing up a new constitution, has voted in favor of creating an “asymmetrical” bicameral system

Constitutional Convention members María Elisa Quinteros (left), Elisa Loncón (center) and Jaime Bassa, on January 5, 2022.
By Valentina Fuentes
April 15, 2022 | 04:20 PM

Santiago — Chile’s Constitutional Convention has approved a set of proposals for the country’s new Magna Carta that would replace the Senate with a new ‘Chamber of the Regions’.

The full Convention voted in favor of creating an “asymmetrical” bicameral system composed of a Chamber of Deputies, where most of the power to propose and shape new laws will lie, and a ‘Chamber of Regions’, which would have limited powers.

With its approval, the proposal will now form part of the draft constitution, although some articles on its specific powers did not garner the two-thirds majority required and will be reviewed again at the committee level.

Chileans are scheduled to vote in a plebiscite on September 4 on whether to approve or reject the draft. If they reject it, the current Constitution, dating from the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, would be maintained.

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The novel political system could be a cause for concern, however, and has already come in for criticism.

The ‘Chamber of Regions’ will only be able to vote on local issues, and will not be able to review all laws, and which hands too much power to deputies, according to Mauricio Morales, a political science professor at the University of Talca.

“No other country in the world has a system with a president and an asymmetrical bicameral system,” Morales said.

Analysts and politicians who have defended the current system say the Senate is usually composed of experienced politicians with greater capacity to negotiate, while some critics say the upper house is a conservative and reactionary body.