President Hugo Chávez was granted an Enabling Law by the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 31, 2007.
The Enabling Law vests the President with legislative powers for 18 months in several areas, including nationalizations, hydrocarbons, electric utilities, telecommunications, taxes, social security and public finance, among several others.
Comrade Hugo has had the decency to restrict himself to 18 months of such powers, and to limit them to certain areas of law. That doesn't make him any more of a constitutional democrat than his friends in Britain.
Comrade Hugo is also more honest in his choice of name for his law.
It is really interesting to review the history of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, and to compare the undertaking given by Jim Murphy with that given by Adolf Hitler in advance of the passage of his Enabling Act.
"The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures...The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one."The UK Bill has been toned down considerably, but its original form tells us all we need to know about the instincts of our rulers, which is that they are closer to those of Comrade Hugo than to those of Parliamentary democrats.
Several Cambridge University law professors wrote to the Times on February 16 last year on the subject (which I believe I have the honour of having been the first to blog about). Sadly the rehash of Times Online has trashed the online copy of their letter, but they pointed out that (as reported at the Save Parliament website)
a minister would have been able to abolish trial by jury, suspend habeas corpus (your right not to be arbitrarily arrested), or change any of the legislation governing the legal system.I still find it hard to believe that, in the country which pioneered the concept of the rule of law, it is a seedy scandal over party finances that seems likely to bring down a government with such tyrannical instincts.