After a year of work, the 154 members of the Chilean Constitutional Convention They will deliver this Monday to President Gabriel Boric what would be the new Constitution of the country in case of being approved by the citizens in the exit plebiscite on September 4.
(Also read: Chile: why is President Gabriel Boric’s popularity plummeting?)
And although it is a proposal that, for the experts, responds to the greatest social demands of Chile, the truth is that the text deals with a thorny path for its approval.
Added to the controversy unleashed by several articles included in the text is the low popularity faced by the left-wing president Gabriel Boric, who has been mistakenly linked to the content of the new Constitution.
The president, who assumed power last March with an acceptance of 50 percent, is close to a scant 23 percent approval rating after his first three months in office, according to this week’s measurement by the firm Cadem.
(You can read: Gabriel Boric: the balance of the first 100 days of the president of Chile)
“The president became too involved in the constitutional process and what we observe is that its approval is influenced by citizen support for the government. Boric is going through a delicate political moment and one of low popular approval, which is why the exit plebiscite is very vulnerable to the winds of the situation,” Leandro Lima, senior analyst for the southern cone of Control Risks, explains to EL TIEMPO.
The truth is that the text arose as a result of the citizen movement unleashed in 2019 when the rise in the price of the Santiago metro ticket became a whole wave of rejection of the government of then president Sebastián Piñera, unleashing one of the largest mobilizations that has lived Chile and whose central axis was to demand a dignified life.
As a way out of the violent protests, which according to the Eyes of Chile Foundation left at least 34 dead and nearly 500 people with eye injuries, Chileans approved the drafting of a new Magna Carta replacing the text established by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
(Also: Chile concludes the drafting of the new Constitution, what comes next?)
The rejection of the project
In general terms, for analysts, the greatest success of the new text is its broad spectrum of rights and the establishment of Chile as “a social and democratic State of law, multinational, intercultural and ecological.”
“The Constitution is linked with modern texts and establishes a modern catalog of rights with a clear mandate to the State to ensure minimum conditions of dignity for all people”, Francisco Arellano, a researcher at the Node XXI Foundation and advisor to the constituent, told this newspaper.
However, as the new articles were revealed, the text did not sit well with certain sectors of the population. Cadem’s most recent survey revealed that 51 percent of the electorate would vote against the new Magna Carta against only 33 percent who would approve. Another Pulso Ciudadano survey places the negative vote at 44 percent.
Boric is going through a delicate political moment and one of low popular approval, hence the plebiscite is very vulnerable
And it is that to be approved, the Constitution needs to obtain 50 percent +1 of the votes in the plebiscite, which poses a complex scenario.
“It is different to ask if I want a new Constitution than to debate what type of constitution I want. That is the difference between the first plebiscite and this one,” says Claudio Fuentes, professor at the School of Political Science at the Diego Portales University in Chile.
(Keep reading: Chile: Boric presents his tax reform, what taxes does he contemplate?)
Among the issues that have generated the most rejection is that of putting an end to the current subsidiary state, in which it is the private ones who “cover” fundamental rights. Many see in it direct threats to economic interests. “The right-wing sectors think that the freedom to have private education, to have private health insurance, to have an AFP or private pension system is being restricted,” explains Fuentes.
The recognition of native or indigenous peoples has also served to encourage some to vote for no, given the apathy that several voters have for these peoples.
In practice, if what was established in the draft text came into effect, Chile would define itself as a “plurinational and intercultural State”, which would grant recognition to the legal system and the territorial autonomy of indigenous people, including them within the political sector with some reserved seats.
For Arellano, despite the fact that about 12 percent of the country’s population identifies as belonging to an original people, in the current constitution there is not a single mention of their existence or their rights.
“In this country for a long time there was a very strong discrimination against indigenous peoples. They were branded as lazy or drunk. There is a whole social sector that has a fairly aggressive and discriminatory relationship with the peoples and that is being expressed now”, he highlights.
Another issue that generates debate is the one referring to the rights of pregnant people. Although the word “abortion” is not mentioned, the right to decide on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is recognized.
And although the regulatory framework on this point will have to be defined by law, the most critical sectors -in a traditionally conservative country in this regard- fear that the door will be opened to the total legalization of abortion, which since 2017 has been possible only under the causes of malformation of the fetus, risk to the life of the mother or rape.
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Experts agree that the rejection of the new constitution has been fueled by the biased position of some sectors that carry out a deliberate disinformation campaign.
In fact, according to an analysis by the Loom Platform, 76 percent of the news that circulates on social networks about the constituent is totally false and 24 percent are inaccurate. In addition, 66% is due to false news that appeals to personal aspects of the constituents in “a personalist discrediting movement,” according to the platform.
Leandro Lima adds to this the little experience of some constituents, who had never been part of formal political processes, and whose popular election also caused surprise in 2021 and was seen as a punishment vote for traditional politicians.
“This had two consequences. The first is that there were many errors in the conduct of the process and that generated impatience in the public. The second is that this created the perception that the Convention was dominated by particularistic interests of these militant groups”, mentions Lima.
The future of the text
The result of the plebiscite, whatever it may be, will be a major challenge for Chile. If the new Magna Carta is approved, a long transition will come which, as Fuentes points out, can last between 10 and 15 years and if it is not approved, the country could plunge into a new crisis.
(In other topics: Chile faces the worst wave of violence in the last 30 years)
“Dismantling a text that constitutionalized a neoliberal legality is going to take many years. If this constitution is approved, many matters are going to have to be developed by law and there are going to be many that are going to take a long time to materialize,” Javier Couso, an academic at Diego Portales University, lands.
Although it is unlikely that there will be an outbreak like the one that occurred in 2019 if the text is not approved, social protests would be the order of the day. “The rejection of the text would deepen the polarization, since the expectations of a significant part of the citizenry and of the movements would be frustrated after two and a half years of debate,” explains Lima.
It would be a failure for the entire political sector of the new Chilean left
Not to mention that in the political sphere, the rejection of the text would be a blow to Boricas it would represent a bath of instability for his government.
(Also: ‘Chile will go from being a subsidiary state to a solidarity state’)
“This would be a failure for the entire political sector of the new Chilean left and of the social movements that gained strength after the outbreak of 2019. Boric is part of this sector and, as president, he is naturally also one of its main leaders,” says Lima, emphasizing that what is most worrying is that the constituent agreement does not establish a protocol in case of losing the plebiscite.
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