National Assembly (Venezuela)
|Party-list proportional representation|
|September 26, 2010|
|Federal Legislative Palace, Caracas|
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politics and government of
The National Assembly (Spanish: Asamblea Nacional) is the legislative branch of the Venezuelan government. It is a unicameral body made up of a variable number of members, who are elected by "universal, direct, personal, and secret" vote partly by direct election in state-based voting districts, and partly on a state-based party-list proportional representation system. The number of seats is not constant, each state and the Capital district elect three representatives plus the result of dividing the state population by 1.1% of the total population of the country. Three seats are reserved for representatives of Venezuela's indigenous peoples and elected separately by all citizens, not just those with indigenous backgrounds. For the 2010-2015 period the number of seats is 165. All deputies serve five-year terms. The National Assembly meets in the Federal Legislative Palace in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.
Under its previous 1961 Constitution, Venezuela had a bicameral legislature, known as the Congress (Congreso). This Congress was composed of a Senate (Senado) and a Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados).
The Senate was made up of two senators per state, two for the Federal District, and a number of ex officio senators intended to represent the nation's minorities. In addition, former presidents (those elected democratically or their replacements legally appointed to serve at least half a presidential term) were awarded lifetime senate seats. Senators were required to be Venezuelan-born citizens and over the age of 30.
The members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by direct universal suffrage, with each state returning at least two. Deputies had to be at least 21 years old.
The Senate was led by a President and the Chamber of Deputies by a Speaker, and both performed their functions with the help of a Directorial Board.
President Hugo Chávez was first elected in December 1998 on a platform calling for a National Constituent Assembly to be convened to draft a new constitution for Venezuela. Chávez's argument was that the existing political system, under the earlier 1961 Constitution, had become isolated from the people. This won broad acceptance, particularly among Venezuela's poorest classes, who had seen a significant decline in their living standards over the previous decade and a half. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. In free elections, voters gave all but six seats to persons associated with the Chávez movement. The Venezuelan people approved the ANC's proposed constitution in a referendum on 15 December 1999. It was promulgated by the ANC and came into effect the following 20 December.
The first election of deputies to the new National Assembly took place on 30 July 2000. President Hugo Chávez' Fifth Republic Movement won 92 seats (56%). The opposition did not attend to the 2005 elections, and as a result gained no seats, while the Fifth Republic Movement gained 114 (69%). In 2007 a number of parties, including the Fifth Republic Movement, merged to create the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which in January 2009 held 139 of the 169 seats (82%). In the 2010 election, for which the number of deputies was reduced to 165, the PSUV won 96 seats (58%), the opposition electoral coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática 65, and Patria Para Todos won 2. The new deputies begin their terms in 5 January 2011.
- List of members of the parliament of Venezuela, 2000–2005
- List of members of the parliament of Venezuela, 2005–2010
- List of members of the parliament of Venezuela, 2010–present
Structure and powers
Under the new Bolivarian 1999 Constitution, the legislative branch of Government in Venezuela is represented by a unicameral National Assembly. The Assembly is made up of 165 deputies (diputados), who are elected by "universal, direct, personal, and secret" vote on a national party-list proportional representation system. In addition, three deputies are returned on a state-by-state basis, and three seats are reserved for representatives of Venezuela's indigenous peoples.
All deputies serve five-year terms and must appoint a replacement (suplente) to stand in for them in during periods of incapacity or absence (Art. 186). Under the 1999 constitution deputies could be reelected on up to two terms (Art. 192); under the Venezuelan constitutional referendum, 2009 these term limits were removed. Deputies must be Venezuelan citizens by birth, or naturalized Venezuelans with a period of residency in excess of 15 years; older than 21 on the day of the election; and have lived in the state for which they seek election during the previous four years (Art. 188).
Beyond passing legislation (and being able to block any of the president's legislative initiatives), the Assembly has a number of specific powers outlined in Article 187, including approving the budget, initiating impeachment proceedings against most government officials (including ministers and the Vice President, but not the President, who can only be removed through a recall referendum) and appointing the members of the electoral, judicial, and prosecutorial branches of government. Among others it also has the power to authorise foreign and domestic military action and to authorise the President to leave the national territory for more than 5 days.
The Assembly is led by a President with 2 Vice Presidents, and together with a secretary and an assistant secretary, they form the Assembly Directorial Board, and when it is on recess twice a year, they lead a Standing Commission of the National Assembly together with 28 other MPs.
Since 2010 the Assembly's 15 Permanent Committees, created by the 2010 Assembly Rules, are manned with a minimum number of 7 and a maximum of 25 MPs tackling legislation of various issues. The Committees' offices are housed in the José María Vargas Building in Caracas, miles from the Federal Legislative Palace, the former building is also where the offices of the Assembly leadership are located.
In the Venezuelan parliamentary election, 2000, representatives were elected under a mixed member proportional representation, with 60% elected in single seat districts and the remainder by closed party list proportional representation. This was an adaptation of the system previously used for the Venezuelan Chamber of Deputies, which had been introduced in 1993, with a 50-50 balance between single seat districts and party lists, and deputies per state proportional to population, but with a minimum of three deputies per state.
For the 2010 election, the Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales (LOPE) among other changes reduced the party list proportion to 30%. In addition, the law completely separated the district vote and the party list votes, creating a system of parallel voting. Previously, parties winning nominal district seats had had these subtracted from the total won under the proportional party list, which had encouraged parties to game the system by creating separate parties for the party list.
- "Ley Orgánica de Procesos Electorales" (in Spanish). Consejo Nacional Electoral. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- "Dos mil 719 candidatos se disputarán los curules de la Asamblea Nacional" (in Spanish). Venezolana de Televisión. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- CNN, Venezuela (Presidential), accessed 27 September 2010
- Donna Lee Van Cott (2005), From movements to parties in Latin America: the evolution of ethnic politics, Cambridge University Press. p29
- Crisp, Brian F. and Rey, Juan Carlos (2003), "The Sources of Electoral Reform in Venezuela", in Shugart, Matthew Soberg, and Martin P. Wattenberg, Mixed-Member Electoral Systems - The Best of Both Worlds?, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. pp. 173-194(22)
- Crisp and Rey(2003:175)
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 2 August 2009, Venezuela Passes New Electoral Law
- Venezuelanalysis.com, 1 October 2010, A New Opportunity for Venezuela’s Socialists
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- 1999 Constitution (unofficial English translation)
- (Spanish) National Assembly website
- (Spanish) Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela (html)
- (Spanish) Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela (pdf)
- (Spanish) 1961 Constitution amended as of 1983