This Sunday the first session of the Constitutional Convention in charge of drafting a new Magna Carta to replace the 1980 Constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) is inaugurated in Chile. Thus begins the 9 months, extendable for three more, that they have to agree and generate a new text, one of the main demands of the social outbreak of October 2019.
The 155 conventional constituents elected in the elections of May 15-16 inaugurated this Sunday, July 3, the first session of the Convention, thus starting the countdown to the period of its drafting. There are 78 men and 77 women, in the first joint body of its kind in the world.
According to what is known so far, no state authority will participate in the ceremony, after some of the constituent sectors reject the participation of the Government and the figure of the president, Sebastián Piñera.
There are also called at least three demonstrations, some summoned by the People’s List itself, the group of 27 constituents that was the biggest surprise of the elections and that come directly from the people and groups that came out to demonstrate for months starting in October 2019 for a different Chile.
In this first session, all the constituents must elect by majority the person who holds the presidency and vice-presidency of the Convention.
The proposals presented so far favor the presidency of a woman who could come from one of the 17 seats that were reserved for the ten original peoples of Chile to give a political signal for change.
Several constituent groups that have met in previous weeks proposed Elisa Loncon, a woman, Mapuche, academic and activist of the languages of indigenous peoples.
“It is important to show signs that the country is moving towards a more plural, more representative society, especially from the point of view of incorporating indigenous peoples into the process and also political equality between men and women”, Rodrigo analyzes for France 24 Espinoza, coordinator and academic of the School of Political Science of the Diego Portales University.
“It was flatly rejected that the powers of the State were present at the opening ceremony (…) because the message above all from the more left-wing sectors is that ‘we have nothing to do with the powers that are already constituted'”, that count on the rejection of the citizenship. “A dividing line has been marked, the constituted powers are part of the past that wants to be transformed with the new Constitution”, affirms the political analyst.
From July 4 to September 4: definition of regulation
In the first two or three months of operation, the Convention must autonomously define its regulations, the composition of the tables and the commissions in relation to the different topics and areas to be dealt with. The conventional ones will have a budget to contract technical consultancies.
The regulations must define how the Convention will work, how many commissions it will have, how they will vote, if there will be citizen participation and how it will be specified, ethical standards and regulate everything related to conflicts of interest.
“There are quite interesting proposals for regulations by feminist movements,” says Espinoza. “That the most relevant commissions are not assigned only to men (as in Congress), that the right of women to be with their families, with their children is respected, that the regulation considers parity also in the confirmation of all the commissions, ”he says.
One of the main controversies in the days prior to the inauguration was that the Government allocated 500 million pesos to citizen participation for the Convention, practically the same amount as the 488 million allocated to security.
Some parliamentarians claimed that citizen participation should weigh more in the budget. In addition, they also pointed out that the security company chosen to provide protection to the Convention It would have in its components people who were part of the personal guard of the dictator Augusto Pinochet and the first president in democracy, Patricio Aylwin and that it would accumulate more than 197 causes for various labor abuses against its employees, such as not respecting their breaks or reducing wages without agreement. The information was disseminated by the research medium Cipe
From April 4 to July 4, 2022: preparation of a new Magna Carta
The 155 constituents will have a period of 9 months, extendable for three more, to prepare a new Constitutional text.
“It is a realistic deadline, there have been constituent conventions that have taken less time and others that have taken longer. The Colombian was done in 6 months, the Bolivian was not enough, it had to be extended later with other political pacts, it was necessary to give it more time and thus and everything was not enough “, explains María Cristina Escudero, academic at the Institute of Public Affairs of the University of Chili.
To be a body that will only be dedicated to the Constitution that does not have other laws and other functions, “it is an adequate time”, he points out: “It will depend a lot on how the Convention is organized internally, how the dialogue of its decision-making system ”, states the expert.
The quorum required to reach agreements on key points is two-thirds, something that could hinder the progress of the dialogues.
Espinoza explains that the agreement that gave rise to the plebiscite established that the Convention will be governed by the principle of the blank page, that is, when there are no two-thirds agreements on any issue, it will refer to a blank page and will have to some kind of conciliation be achieved. The text of the 1980 Constitution will not be used “as the right had initially proposed,” he says.
Given the various controversies which has preceded the Convention facility, a climate of certain conflicts can be forecast. “The greatest challenge of the Convention will be the ability for political actors to agree,” says Espinoza, given that no group has a majority.
“We have a Constitutional Convention made up mostly of independents,” and these groups, especially the People’s List, “are unaware of the powers instituted.” For Espinoza, this is a mistake because “all groups have the right to speak.”
“There is a politically quite convulsed, polarized environment, especially because there are more radical sectors that believe that the Constitutional Convention is going to be practically in a bunker and is going to isolate itself from the world to write the new Constitution,” says Espinoza.
For the analyst, the Convention should be an open body that begins “to test the muscle of negotiation and tolerance and begin to dialogue to avoid radical positions.”
September 4, 2022
Once the text is approved by the constituents, there is a period of 60 days to call an exit plebiscite, with a mandatory vote, for all Chileans to ratify or reject the text.
In the event that the new Magna Carta does not have support at the polls, the 1980 Constitution would continue to govern. However, Espinoza believes that it is highly unlikely.