Greg Weeks has an update on his previous post about possible reforms to Chile’s binomial electoral system, which I also discussed.
He outlines a joint proposal by the (centrist) Christian Democratic Party and the (center-right) Renovación Nacional:
- The president can dissolve the legislature
- The president chooses a prime minister who must be approved by a majority in the legislature
- Proportional representation in the legislature (with specifics to be worked out later)
- Term limits for all positions
- System of primaries
- Public financing of political parties
I agree with Greg: This is a radical departure for Chile. Personally, I would prefer Chile return to its pre-1973 “parliamentarized presidential” system (in which the legislature selects the president in the event no candidate wins a majority). Although I like the idea of greater “parliamentarization” by giving the president the power to call for new elections (though I would also like the legislature to have that power, as in parliamentary systems).
I’m not particularly a fan of semi-presidential systems. But it seems what is being discussed here is not a semi-presidential system, if Greg’s right that the prime minister (as in Peru) would be merely window dressing.
However, one virtue of the existing Chilean system is that it encourages (or, some might say, forces) coalition governments. For better or worse, the binomial system has neatly divided Chile into two blocks: Christian Democrats and Socialists vs. Conservatives. I would worry that a list-PR electoral system combined with presidentialism would produce either weak executives or "delegative" executives.
Parliamentarized presidentialism worked well in Bolivia. It diffused extreme polarization in the 1980s and allowed for broad coalition governments that could govern effectively. It broke down in the late 1990s. Partly (as many journalistic observers argue) because of broad rejection of neoliberalism and/or lack of faith in the traditional (or “systemic”) parties. However, as I argue in my work (expanded upon in my dissertation), a major contributing factor was the adoption of a mixed-member electoral system.
Chile should reform its system, which his not fairly representative. But it should retain institutional levers that encourage coalition formation—especially if it allows for coalition-building to be more fluid than it currently is.