Chile’s New Phase to Write a Constitution

A man holding a Chilean flag arrives at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Elvis Gonzalez / EFE

What can we expect in the coming months? The most probable thing is that Kast will seek to transform the Constitutional Convention into a political weapon for his right wing alliance.

By Rafael Rojas (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – In Chile’s recent elections for a new Constitutional Council, the right has won a leg up, reaffirming their rising hegemony. The Chile Seguro [“Safe Chile”] Alliance, comprised of the Republican Party, headed by Jose Antonio Kast, and Chile’s more traditional right, obtained over 56% of the votes. Meanwhile, the governing left, led by current Chilean President Gabriel Boric, plus the Todo por Chile [“Everything for Chile”] central left grouping of parties, only garnered 37.5% of the valid votes.

The reaction of many major Ibero-American media follows the message of a “surprise from the right.” However, the truth is that the result isn’t as uneven as the 2022 Constitutional plebiscite, when the vote to reject the new proposed Constitution nearly reached 62%. It’s true that the percentage voting for the left this time is nearly identical to the percent of the “Approve” vote in the referendum, but the percentage of null or blank votes (21%) also shouldn’t be underestimated. These reflect the mass of the indecisive, a bloc where the left can seek support.

Whatever way you want to look at it, the result once again confirms Kast as the leader of the right-wing bloc in Chile. His leadership springs from more extreme or radical positions than those of the conservative right or the Chilean neoliberal party, personified by Sebastian Piñera and other politicians of the recent past. Kast, who fiercely opposed the Constitutional change, now heads the political force with the greatest representation within the new Constitutional Committee.

What can we expect in the coming months? The most probable thing is that Kast will seek to convert the Constitutional drafting process into a political weapon of his alliance, taking advantage of President Boric’s low popularity and the enormous problems his government faces. If that’s the route, the leader of the Republican Party wouldn’t be doing anything very different from what Boric did with the former Constitutional proposal between 2021 and 2022.

Such party partisanship around the Constitutional change is a bad sign. A Magna Carta must, first and foremost, be a legal framework of government norms, based on a consensus among the principal political forces. Boric’s reaction – as last year when his position was defeated in the plebiscite – is heartening, because it goes in the direction of recognizing his disadvantage and calling on his followers to negotiate with his rivals.

We can expect that the most strongly progressive initiatives of Boric’s Constitutional project – a pluri-national State, third and fourth generation rights, identity policies – will be discarded in this negotiation. In exchange, the left will likely try to preserve the social accent of the current government, some modalities of decentralization, and the seeking of legislative majorities.

The Constitutional process continues its rough course in Chile. In 2020 only a little over 20% of Chileans favored keeping the 1980 Constitution, approved in times of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Three years later, the triumph of the right doesn’t necessarily reflect a majority that supports the old norms.

This article was originally published in the website “La Razon de Mexico.”

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