Chile faces an important challenge involving the drafting and final approval of its new national constitution. Following the violent demonstrations in late 2019, glimpses of the possibility of changing the direction of the conflict by calling a constitutional convention were glimpsed. Its main task was to draft a new text with full democratic legitimacy, which would allow the old Magna Carta, which originated during the Pinochet dictatorship and despite numerous reforms during the democratic era, to be buried.
Undoubtedly, voters on the left, especially those not integrated into the old Concertación, were most mobilized against this process. This can be confirmed not only in the results of the referendums that approved the need for reform, but also in subsequent electoral elections. This time there is a double phenomenon, which clearly constrains the outcome of a series of events that will end with the result of the so-called “exit referendum”.
On the one hand, the emergence of “independent” candidates, outside the discipline of traditional parties, is especially important on the most extreme and anti-establishment left. In addition, there are representatives of the so-called “aboriginal people”.On the other hand, elevated abstainwhich prevented them from conquering at least a third of the convention, where they could have exercised their objections and negotiated the final text on better terms.
so, constitutional convention It became a rather unmanageable institution, in which contradictory positions began to emerge, many of which were completely at odds with Chilean political traditions. As of today, the possibility of the new text defining Chile as a multi-ethnic state, following the Bolivian model, which weakens the centrality of the Senate and even the judiciary, or that it questions the basic elements of a market economy, not only related to copper mining, they also quite high. The General Assembly has until July 5 to complete its work. If the calendar remains unchanged, an exit referendum should be called on September 4, with a mandatory vote to approve or reject the new constitution.
The Precarious Job of the Constitutional Convention and the Growing turmoil In it came insults and threats to those who have or have strayed from the “politically correct” line, basically driven by “independents” and those closest to the government’s coalition. I pro-dignity, have Start to complicate the outcome of the process. Until a few weeks ago, it was almost certain that the new constitution would be ratified, regardless of its content. So much so that only three days into his presidency, President Borik strongly stated that “any result is better than the constitution formulated by the four generals.” Today, opinion polls are starting to show growing opposition to it, which will put the government, and the entire Chilean political class, in serious trouble.
With a new text that effectively precludes the majority of socially supported options, there are essentially two scenarios that can arise in the face of a constitution that is viewed as questionable.The first is that, thanks to the significant mobilization of the Left, the latter It was approved, despite the rejection of rights parties and major economic players. In this case, the biggest headache for the Borik government will be its execution, a task that should not be left to a parliament dominated by the ruling party. We will even have to see what new rules of the game are imposed that could mean new elections and thus determine the future of the government and the parliamentarians themselves.
The second case is no victory, which is the result of the important mobilization of the right wing and the center. In such cases, the difference between yes and no votes is crucial in determining the responses of different political and social actors. Unless Borik decides to distance himself from the Yes faction ahead of the referendum, his government will pay a huge price after confirming that he faces a deeply controversial and divisive text. Here new doubts arise: Can he keep alive the two coalitions on which his government depends? The first is Approve Dignity, which is where the Broad Front and the Communist Party meet. The second, starting with the Socialist Party, manages to add some pre-concerto strength to the previous one.
Another important issue is determining the viability of the still-in-force constitution and whether to convene a new constitutional convention, or to commission the current one to draft a new text. Given the experience of recent months, a further exit is unthinkable. That is why it is necessary to understand how to deal with failures of constitutional experience and all frustrated expectations.
Regardless of the outcome, things will not be easy for Borich, who is already facing a marked deterioration in public confidence and increased polarization, all of which could even affect trust in the political system. In this case, the legitimacy of the exercise would be greatly affected, as would governance in Chile. The positions the president takes ahead of the referendum results, like those of his government partners, will have important implications for the country’s near-term political future, and even for the continuity of power across the broad front of the president’s party, which is currently problematic.
(Updated: April 29, 2022).
Image: Visit to the Chamber of Deputies and Deputies of the president-elect Gabriel Boric. Photo: Representative for Chile/René Lescornez A. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).