Constitutional Council Elections Sunday in Chile

A part of the left calls to annul ballots

The vote to elect a Constitutional Council takes place on May 7th.

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – This Sunday is an important date for Chileans. Elections will be held to elect the members of the Constitutional Council, the body that will have the mission of drafting a new Magna Carta for the country.

As a result of the electoral process, 50 members of the Constitutional Council will be chosen. These, along with the 24 members of the Committee of Experts, will deliver the final document that will be submitted to a referendum on December 17, 2023.

Regarding Sunday’s vote, different voices have appeared on the left and among some intellectuals, arguing that annulling the ballot would be the best option since the new process would be flawed and completely undemocratic.

This is the case of some intellectuals recognized by the Chilean left, including Carlos Perez Soto, Sergio Grez, Gabriel Salazar, Rodrigo Karmy, among others, who signed a document stating that this new process would be a fraud hatched among the political parties, since it would only seek to close the door to a true Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly.

Some of them, such as Rodrigo Karmy, have even gone so far as to say that a null vote is the only possible vote, since the constitutional agreement of last December 12 is part of a new civil and parliamentary coup. He sees a clear connection and continuity with the dictatorial process of Pinochet that led to the illegitimate and neoliberal constitution of 1980.

One may agree with the criticism of this new constituent design, for being a much more limited process than the previous one, for having designated actors (Commission of experts and Technical Admissibility Committee), and the exclusion of lists of independents and of native peoples. However, from there to fall into a futile criticism, out of touch with what we have experienced as a country from 2019 onwards, is to seek to install again from the left a politics of defeat, as occurred in September 2022, not wanting to open up to the fact that certain cracks can be generated in the prevailing order.

I mention it since many of those who are now calling for a null vote in this new election of constituent councilors on May 7, positioned themselves in the same way with the agreement of November 15, 2019, pointing out that it was an undemocratic agreement, that it would only serve to save Sebastian Piñera and the country’s elites, through a constitution made to fit for them and without any participation of the Chilean people.

Beyond the reasonable criticism at that time of said agreement, for being closed by the Chilean congress and without dialogue with other social actors, it showed us a process that became more and more democratized with the passage of time, leaving our concerns of the initial agreement as mere projections of our own personal political failures, which forced us to get rid of certain beliefs to join an unprecedented process in the country.

With this I am not saying that the design of a Constituent Assembly is not more democratic than the other designs, as it is a power with many more faculties to change the country’s institutions and the type of State that it wants to build. However, politics is much more complex, dynamic and difficult to predict, since it is a non-linear process, which takes paths that respond to multiple factors.

It is something to see how the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela resulted, which may have had a much more participatory and popular design than the Chilean process, but resulted in a cooptation by the government of Hugo Chavez and in a later dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro, who brought as a consequence, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which has millions of Venezuelans leaving a regime that, with an ideologically poor anti-imperialist discourse, seeks to justify everything.

For this reason, politics, and life itself is much more open and unexpected than what some intellectuals suggest. The words of the lawyer and former constituent Fernando Atria make a lot of sense. Although he agrees with some of the criticisms proposed by them, he does not close to what may happen over time since it takes the experience of the previous process, realizing that nothing is closed or annulled, because we cannot really know the drift of a process, which in the case of Chile continues to be quite exceptional.

Hence, Atria reminds us that in the 2019 agreement there were also borders and some said that with that starting point everything was already cooked from the political parties and limited by the current free trade agreements. Nonetheless, it went far beyond the original design, and it was possible to install discussions and constitutional norms totally unthinkable a few years ago.

Having said this, I also note what was raised from the social movements by the spokespersons of the 8M Feminist Coordinator, Alondra Carrillo and Karina Nohales. They chose not to call for a null vote, because to them it is precisely to continue politically disputing the meanings and horizons that will be discussed again in the coming months in Chile, although for some all is lost in advance.

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