The new constitution has been approved in 1999. The 1960 Constitution provided for a democratic system with checks and balances between the powers. Venezuela is a federal republic of 22 states, one Federal District, and the Federal Dependencies (a group of 72 islands). A strongly empowered president governs with a council of 26 ministers. Since 1989, state governors are elected by the people. The bicameral legislature comprises the Senate (47 members) and the Chamber of Deputies (199 members). Voting is mandatory for all Venezuelan citizens who are at least 18 years old. The Supreme Court of Justice is composed of 15 members and functions as the court of last appeal.
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