VALPARAISO, Chile – Chile’s lower house of Congress voted 75-31 on Tuesday to change an electoral system seen as one of the toxic legacies of the 1973-1990 dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
The proposal passed the Senate last month.
The current “binominal” electoral formula was laid down in Chile’s 1980 constitution, a document drafted by the far right and imposed on the country by Pinochet.
Under the scheme, each congressional district elects two legislators, and for one party or coalition to claim both seats it must garner 66 percent of the vote.
This arrangement has enabled the right to control half the seats in Congress despite getting just over a third of the votes at the ballot box, while independents and radical leftists have been effectively shut out.
The approved reform modifies Article 47 of the constitution.
In its place, it is proposed that the Constitutional Law on Popular Votes and Recounts be modified with regard to the number of senators and deputies, existing voting districts and the prevailing electoral system.
The move to reform the voting system was made possible thanks to a political accord reached between the opposition and one of the parties in the governing right-wing coalition.
What remains now is to encompass the changes in a comprehensive law on the makeup of Congress, a task for which there are several proposals on the table, one of which increases from 120 to 134 the number of seats in the lower house and the number of Senate seats from 38 to 44.
There are also calls to institute term limits for legislators.
The current voting system will remain in effect for next month’s Chilean general elections.