Chile’s constitutional assembly voted to eliminate the country’s senate and replace it with a new chamber of areas. In addition, it also voted to approve presidential reelection, which only seems to confirm what many people feared when all of this started: The possibility that the rewriting of Chile’s constitution could eventually turn into a radical movement that could establish some type of changes that would hurt not only the country’s economy but especially its democracy.
While it’s true that these changes approved by the assembly still need to be confirmed by another voting process, the truth is that the South American nation is currently in a pretty delicate scenario that could eventually lead to the same institutional destruction that we have seen in different countries all across Latin America.
Practically, replacing the senate with a chamber of areas is creating a unicameral parliament that will severely debilitate Chile’s legislative branch, considering that this chamber will have more limited powers than the Senate. This situation will make it easier for the executive branch to control the legislative since members from the government’s party will only need a majority.
Of course, this situation is extremely dangerous at this particular moment, considering that Chile recently elected the most radical government since the country’s return to democracy, following the brutal right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. This way, having a radical left-wing president as Gabriel Boric with these constitutional changes seems the perfect recipe for chaos.
We’re talking about a dangerous situation since the senates are always less likely to fall into radicalism and extremism because of the heterogenic condition of the regions that senators represent. This is pretty different from the lower house in almost every single around the western hemisphere, where it’s more common to see a lot of radical politicians. Usually, these are divided into authoritarians and populists.
In fact, another dangerous precedent is that the vast majority of countries around the world that don’t have a senate in the legislative branch, are dictatorships or hybrid democracies. A good example is the one of Hungary since the rise of Viktor Orban. Because, even when it is a fact he’s not a dictator and Hungary is not exactly living under a dictatorship, it is undeniable that this European country is not exactly a healthy democracy.
Another nation in the western hemisphere that is far from being a democracy and has a unicameral parliament is Nicaragua, which suffered the horrible reality of a tyranny during the years of Anastasio Somoza, and is currently experiencing it again with left-wing dictator Daniel Ortega.
The Venezuelan regime also eliminated the senate and approved presidential reelection.
Considering that Chile is taking a really dangerous path, it is important to look for some precedents in the same continent where this country is. And unfortunately, there’s one in particular that is probably the worst of all: Venezuela, a country that followed the same path and ended in a way that most people already know.
What is currently taking place is exactly what the former Venezuelan dictator did once he got in power, taking advantage of his majority in the legislative branch. To eliminate the Venezuelan senate and create a unicameral body known as the National Assembly. Once he controlled it, he used to approve the presidential reelection, which eventually allowed him to remain so many years in power.
Naturally, there are other situations where the country didn’t end like Venezuela, but it fell into a huge political chaos. This was the case of Colombia, with former President Alvaro Uribe changing the constitution to approve presidential reelection, which was eventually canceled by the administration of former President Juan Manuel Santos.