Chile Faces a Complex Dialogue after Constitution Rejected  

Vote counting in the constitutional plebiscite in Chile on September 4, 2022.  Photo: EFE/Adriana Thomasa.

The only certainty is that with the result, Chile maintains as its legal framework the Magna Carta written in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The overwhelming victory of the “Reject” option in the constitutional plebiscite in Chile on Sunday opens an uncertain and complex scenario of dialogue between the government, the different political forces and civil society on how the constituent process initiated after the social outbreak of 2019 should proceed.

For now, the only certainty is that with this result, Chile maintains as its legal framework the current Magna Carta, written in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and partially reformed in democracy.

Article 142 of the current text, referring to the constitutional plebiscite, states that “if the issue posed to the electorate in the ratifying plebiscite is rejected, the current Constitution will remain in force.”

“With the triumph of the ‘Reject’ option we continue with the same Constitution, and we depend on the will of the Congress to continue or not with the process,” Julieta Suarez-Cao an academic at the Institute of Political Science of the Catholic University told EFE.

In July, President Gabriel Boric established the road map in case of the disapproval of the constitutional proposal by assuring that “there has to be a new constituent process”—he affirmed—which will last for another year and a half, and in which “everything will have to be discussed again from scratch.”

“We have to reach an agreement on how this new electoral process can be. Boric has already shown an openness with that, which did not exist at the beginning,” adds the director of the pollster Tresquintos, Kenneth Bunquer.

In this context, the president assured on Sunday evening that the citizenry had spoken clearly and announced that he has already summoned the leaders of the Congress and representatives of civil society to a meeting this Monday at the Palacio de la Moneda to study the new route and see how to speed it up.

“Tomorrow, the Government could send a message calling for conventional electors, but it is not clear to me that there will be the necessary votes in the Congress to carry it forward, so today’s uncertainty is awful,” Suarez-Cao points out.

Several formulas on the table

In the weeks prior to the plebiscite, several alternatives were put on the table before the possibility of reaching this scenario, as projected by the polls.

Three weeks ago, Congress approved a norm that would facilitates this path, since it reduces the quorum from 2/3 to 4/7 to be able to make reforms to the current Constitution.

That is why, in case the idea of drafting a new text is maintained, other options, for the time being, involve Congress or a Committee of Experts.

Within the group of parties that have defended the Reject option, ranging from the extreme right up to part of the center-left, there is no unanimity or consensus on how to continue the process or through what mechanism to do so.

The far-right extremists of the Republican Party, for example, do not want a new Constitution and their bet is to reform the current one.

“In the coming months, there will be an initial moment of institutional instability because, although there is an agreement that the Constitution must change, the mechanism has not yet been defined,” commented Juan Pablo Araya, a political analyst and professor at the O’Higgins University.

In these definitions, the Congress will assume a new importance and it will be necessary to reach agreements. While the right-wing forces as a whole have the majority, the November parliamentary elections left a very fragmented Parliament.

Boric, impacted

Experts and analysts agree that the result hurts the president and the executive. “It is a serious blow during the first year of the Boric Administration, since the president had put his political capital with the Approve option, says Araya.

“It will be very difficult to implement the government program and maintain unity and stability in the government coalition,” he adds.

Boric played a key role in the signing of an agreement in a transversal way for the combo of political forces in November 2019 and that gave way to the constituent assembly process.

During the campaign he insisted several times on the idea that the process would reach a successful outcome and even as president he spoke in favor of the “yes.”

“It is very hard for me to imagine that, after everything that Chile has gone through, we decided to go back to square one concerning the 1980 Constitution,” he pointed out.

According to Araya, the new scenario precipitates the need to make a change in the cabinet because “it is necessary to reach broad agreements and there are members who have a very worn-out political capital.”

The Minister of the Interior, Izkia Siches, is one of the names who has the possibility of leaving. The new cabinet will have the challenge of managing the new phase of the process.

Read more from Chile here on Havana Times.



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