ls a Constitution for Change Still Possible in Chile?
We have to keep our sights on the future with the clarity that the main objective of this process is for us to have a constitution that enables a democratic discussion, allows us to recover democracy and politics as a tool for change in people’s lives, which is especially pressing now that far-right populisms are winning ground.
By Catalina Perez Salinas (El Mostrador)
HAVANA TIMES – Just a month after the Pact for Chile was signed, we can say that we already have an idea of what the new constitutional process will be like. Even though a very important step still needs to be taken – the election of members for the Constitutional Council -, we already know how the Expert Committee and Technical Committee on Admissibility will be made up, as well as the operating regulations for both Chambers.
Thus, initial reflections and critiques have begun to flood in, some made in more haste than others, as the process moves forward.
Let’s recap: the Expert Committee is made up of twelve members put forward by the Right, ten were put forward by pro-government political forces and two by the Christian Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the Committee on Admissibility will be made up of six lawyers nominated by Chile Vamos, six by pro-government political forces, one by the Christian Democratic Party and another one by the People’s Party.
Looking at these numbers, some people have said that the Right will have control of the process and that the new Constitution will only contain what they want, but they’re forgetting that we still need to know who the members of the leading body of this process, the Constitutional Council, will be, who will be elected by the population 100%. I disagree with this idea. For starters, quorums for different elections are won by a supermajority and not a simple majority. In other words, broad agreements will need to be reached in order for discussions to move forward.
On the other hand, the organization chart of the process helps iron out imbalances. Meaning to say that there are many different bodies that will be monitoring and counterbalancing each other. For example, the Constitutional Council will deliberate the Expert Committee’s draft proposal, but it will also present new articles – as well as from popular initiative-; the Committee on Admissibility will ensure that different discussions and voting are in line with the institutional foundations established in constitutional reform; the Mixed Committee will act as an intermediary to settle controversies and the Committee of Conduct will oversee Council members’ actions.
It’s clear that this isn’t the ideal process for our grouping, who will be further under the Council’s tutelage in their discussion about what we would like to happen. I also don’t believe that the opposition designed this process in the case they didn’t agree with us. But we can’t deny that its design will allow us to have a new Constitution, via democratic debate and broad agreements. At the end of the day, it will be every social group’s responsibility to contribute to the success of this process.
That said, we need to understand that the Constitutional debate isn’t only based on which sector has the votes needed to approve or reject one thing or another, but that we are facing a cultural dispute, where common sense will be used, and what citizens believe Chile needs to be within a new legal framework, because the old one is out of date. Let’s hope that both the Right and ourselves can step up to the plate of this challenge.
This is an invitation to critically analyze what the last process was so we don’t repeat the same mistakes, trying to stop the ghost of a constituent assembly from following us after it was unable to speak to the Chilean people. We have to keep our sights on the future with the clarity that the main objective of this process is for us to have a Constitution that enables a democratic discussion, allows us to recover democracy and politics as a tool for change in people’s lives, which is especially pressing now that far-right populisms are gaining ground.