Chile’s Constitutional Council, composed of a conservative majority, approved on Monday in its plenary session the proposal for a new constitution that will be voted on by citizens on December 17. It was a process that took more than four months of work of this body, and was characterized by polarization between the ruling party led by President Gabriel Buric and the opposition, which was the champion of this second attempt by Chile to replace the current Constitution of 1980, of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). ), but it underwent about 60 amendments in democracy. It is the right, traditional and extreme, that led this process with a majority in the Council (33 out of 50 editors), which explains why the text was approved and also merged: by a majority of 33 votes in favor and 17 votes in favour. Against the ruling party. Therefore, the text that will be put to a referendum in less than seven weeks reaches citizens without political consensus.
After the proposal is approved, the new constitution will be delivered next Tuesday, November 7, to President Buric so that he can carry out the task of calling for the referendum, which is obligatory for citizens.
The vote in the plenary session on Monday witnessed a debate between the opposition and the ruling party, with both sides exchanging accusations for not reaching a broad agreement, as was the goal of this second attempt in four years. The voting process also did not witness any new developments, as on the main and ideological issues that divided the two sectors months ago, the deliberations were in their favor with a majority of 33 votes from the right, including 22 from the far-right Republican Party, and 17 from the Republican Party. The left one.
This is Chile’s second attempt in four years to change the current Basic Charter which, although born during the dictatorship in 1980, has been reformed about 60 times since 1989. In 2005, in the government of socialist Ricardo Lagos, major amendments were made, so it carries The current text is the signature of the former president who ruled Chile between 2000 and 2006. The country had to launch a new process in 2023 after the previous proposal was rejected by 62% of citizens. Unlike the current text, in the previous frustrating process, the proposal was prepared by a constitutional convention dominated by the identity-based radical left.
This second attempt took place in November 2022, after the previous fiasco. This operation, promoted by President Buric and supported by the traditional right, had completely different characteristics from the first operation. It began with a first text approved by a committee of experts from all sectors with representation in Congress, which worked from March to June 6. However, the fifty-member council made important changes, because the right succeeded in asserting its majority.
In addition, this process has been characterized by a continued lack of interest on the part of citizens. Since the experts began their work in March, most opinion polls have revealed that more than 50% of Chileans consulted were consistently inclined to vote against the new constitution, and did so without even knowing the proposal. The latest poll conducted by the Kadem Opinion Center on Sunday showed that favorable opinion rose three points compared to last week, reaching 34%, but opposing opinion reached 51%.
But this new attempt was also met with another characteristic: If the right, which was a minority, claimed in the previous conference the absence of dialogue, today it is the left that complains about the absence of agreements.
The proposed new constitution has been classified by the left for months into two concepts: identity and ideology. It was repeated on Monday in the general debate before the vote, and the only surprise was the fact that advisors to Burić’s ruling party made it clear for the first time that they would vote against the text in the next referendum. One of them was the socialist Alejandro Koller: “We have no choice but to reject this text. The circumstantial majority was imposed by a doctrinal text. “They have chosen to impose an exclusive, dogmatic, reactionary and polarizing script, which represents the risk of political and social instability, precisely by leaving other democratic ideas without democratic space.”
“We have failed to offer a consensual constitution for Chile,” said Antonia Rivas, a lawyer and member of the Expert Committee on Social Convergence, from the Poreč party. “On the contrary, we are offering you a text message with… Small version“Extremist and partisan, which endangers stability.”
On the other hand, consultant Luis Silva, from the Republican Party, a group led by former presidential candidate José Antonio Cast, said that the new text they are proposing “is better than the current text, much better, because it takes care of the challenges.” “Completely different from what it was in 1980,” and “strengthens the state’s capabilities to confront crime, terrorism, and corruption.” “By voting in favor, I am sure of what will happen: I know that the process is closed and I know the rules by which Chile will be governed from now on. On the other hand, by voting against the resolution, a path of complete uncertainty opens up. Will the current constitution remain in force for how long? He added: “Faced with this alternative, I hope that the overwhelming majority will choose the first path, which is the security path. That is why I vote in favor of it and I invite you to vote in favor of it.”
One element of this constitutional process was the role of the Republican Party, which was not about to change the current constitution and, in fact, was not in the November 2022 agreement seeking a second chance. But after gaining a majority of seats in last May’s elections, he began proposing a series of amendments, many of them conservative in nature, which were approved along the way by traditional right-wing votes. Therefore, it was not known for more than three months whether this conservative political force would express itself in favor of or against the text. That is, until its leader, Kast, announced on October 3 that in the upcoming referendum “we have a great opportunity to change the future.”
Subsequently, the entire opposition joined in voting in favor of the resolution, among them the main political figure of the traditional right, Evelyn Mathy, the mayor of Providencia from the UDI. The economist, who criticized the proposal a few days ago, later announced her support.
A big dilemma for the left
The text to be voted on contains a series of articles that represent a setback for the Chilean left. The call to reject the proposal created a complex dilemma, because to speak against it would mean, in some way, to specifically endorse or defend the current Magna Carta, which the sector has been urging to replace for years. They blame it as a sin of origin that arose during the Pinochet dictatorship.
One of the most prominent points that the left criticized in the new text was that although the social state was embodied in the text, which was its historical aspiration, it was not left as they wanted. The right was also able, with its majority – which the ruling party disputes that it is circumstantial – to maintain in the proposal the dependent state model, which is included in the current basic charter, and which approves a major role for the private sector in the state. Providing social rights, such as the retirement and health system. Another approved rule was added stating that “the law protects the life of the fetus”, one of the most complex rules for this sector and which it is expected could conflict with the three-cause abortion law in force since 2017 in Chile.
Burić’s government maintained a lack of careful attention during the seven months that the operation was carried out, leading the executive to issue few opinions on its course. But today, while the interventions of advisors and experts were taking place, Socialist Minister Secretary-General of the Government Alvaro Elizalde said: “To some extent, I believe that a greater effort should have been made to reach a solution.” It stated that it “will represent the diversity of Chilean society so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.” He added, “The constitution must be a meeting place and be presented over decades. Therefore, it must be an expression of the objective consensus of our society, and therefore, additional effort should have been made in this regard.”
What Elizalde said was in a tone similar to that used by President Buric last week, who said of the process that “without broad agreements, Chile will not advance.” He added: “We can be opponents in many things, and we can have differences of opinion that enrich us, it is possible Grab the wicks [el cabello] In some specific projects, however “We cannot harm our population because of the inability of those among us who work in politics professionally,” said the president, who will face a new referendum before completing two years in La Moneda among his four administrations in office. Ends in March 2026.
Two major figures on the left, former socialist presidents Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010; 2014-2019), also expressed their disagreement with the text. They did so while deliberations over the rules were still ongoing. The former president said two weeks ago that he was “never again available to draft a constitution in which one sector has distinct veto power.” “We have not learned the lesson that caused us to fail last time,” Bachelet warned in September. “The constitution is neither the space that grants national status to certain political identities, nor makes the victory of some over others felt or sustainable. The constitution is the set of basic rules that are accepted by all and that allow us to address our differences democratically,” the socialist said.
The ruling party and other centrist parties have not yet announced their official position on the referendum. Meanwhile, since the start of this second attempt, Buric has announced that there will be no “conditions for a new operation” in his administration. If it is not approved, Chile will have to make changes to the current Basic Charter through reforms.
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