The Chilean Senate approved a bill Wednesday that modifies the electoral system in the country, eliminating the oft-criticized “binomial system” that favored established political parties at the expense of smaller parties.
President Michelle Bachelet called the decision by the Senate an “enormous step forward” and an improvement to Chilean democracy that was “long desired and much needed.”
"After 25 years this allows us to end an electoral system that was unique in the world and which has much done much damage to Chilean democracy," said Interior Minister Rodrigo Peñailillo.
The new law also introduces quotas to increase the participation of women in Congress. Each party entering an election must ensure that no more than 60 percent of its candidates are from one gender.
The right-wing opposition criticized the reform, with Senator Hernan Larrain of the Independent Democratic Union saying that his party will challenge the bill and bring it before the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.
The vote overturns the previous electoral system introduced by dictator Augusto Pinochet before he was removed from power that was intended to ensure conservative parties retained a strong voice after the end of the dictatorship.
Under the previous system, each electoral district elected two parliamentarians; however a party had to win two-thirds of the votes in order to secure both seats.
The new bill increases the number of representatives from 120 to 155 and increases the amount of senators from 38 to 50. Lawmakers will now be elected through a proportional system while still guaranteeing a minimum representation from the lesser populated regions of Chile.
"The system that we will have in our country will permit better representation and have more and better ideas in parliament," Bachelet said Wednesday.