New Constitutional Pact for Chilean Democracy

The President of Chile (Gabriel Boric), together with the President of the Senate (Álvaro Elizalde), the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Vlado Mirosevic) and the Minister of the Presidency (Ana Lya Uriarte).

A new Constitution needs to represent the vast majority of Chile, so they vote in a referendum with an overwhelming majority.

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – Chile’s constitutional pact was signed on December 12th, by different political forces within Congress, with the exception of new Right deniers, led by Jose Antonio Kast. This is not only good news for those of us who believe that the foundations for a new social pact in the country can only be brought about by democratic constitutional reform, but it is also taking on the responsibility of this historic moment, not letting it pass and putting it off the future.

Thus, a new constitutional committee with parity of representation and seats for indigenous peoples will be formed, with 50 constituent members elected democratically, under the same rules for the Senate. It will also be accompanied by a committee of 24 experts appointed by Congress, who will draw up a draft proposal, as well as a technical committee with 14 members, who will make sure that the process meets the 12 constitutional foundations.   

That said, while this new process may be more limited, democratically-speaking, than the previous one, because of the exaggerated role appointed experts and the technical committee will play, not signing the pact – which some groups were asking for – was to deny Chile the chance to give an institutional solution a second shot, as social unease is still high in the country.  

It comes as no surprise then, that just like the last agreement on November 15, 2019, many Leftist groups and social movements were quick to question this new pact, pointing out that it was cooked up by the same politics of Congress, behind the population’s backs, so they will once again be on the sidelines of this new constitutional process, and have called it a betrayal of the Chilean people.

Nevertheless, looking at it from this perspective is to overlook the great defeat we suffered at the hands of the Chilean people on September 4th with the referendum. They not only rejected the document outright, and the process not only failed because of the terror campaign funded by powerful economic groups, but also because of mistakes the Constitutional Convention itself made, locking itself up in its own work and losing more and more touch with Chilean society.

I’m not trying to say that the previous constitutional process should have been scrapped, like the most conservative groups here have tried to spin in the media, using the Constitutional Convention as a scapegoat, calling it a suck-up and as a waste of the country’s resources and time. That’s not my intention at all.

On the contrary in fact, it is a matter of examining the process and rescuing everything positive from it, in a lot of the content and ideals for the future, as well as the fact that it was a historic moment, being the first democratic constitutional body in Chile, but also learning from its limitations.

If we don’t look at it like this, we will be banging our head against an ideological wall, which might be critical and coherent in our minds, but incapable of finding its place within the current landscape and building bridges to find an institutional solution for a country that is still holding onto its illegitimate constitution today, which needs to be replaced no matter what, especially considering the fact that it will be the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile next year. 

As a result, the historic need to approve a new Constitution, which will surely lack a lot of the progressive content the previous document written by the Constitutional Convention had, needs to offer a new document this time that connects more with the masses and what they want in their lives.

Therefore, this new Constitution needs to represent the vast majority of Chile, so they vote in a referendum with an overwhelming majority. It is the job of this new body to show they are a lot more capable of sustaining a dialogue and reaching an agreement, without downgrading and becoming arrogant, like the previous Constitutional Convention did, when we weren’t able to stop certain actions that didn’t correspond with and hurt the final result.

December 12, 2022 has to be seen as a new opportunity for us Chileans to resume a constitutional dialogue, that despite its limitations, will still be historic for a country that has always been denied a Constitution voted in under democratic conditions.

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