Chilean President Gabriel Boric, center, presents the final version of the draft constitution. He is flanked by Maria Elisa Quinteros and Gaspar Dominguez, members of the Constituent Assembly. In Santiago, July 4, 2022. LUIS HIDALGO / AP
The Constituent Assembly of Chile presented President Gabriel Boric on Monday July 4th with the final draft of a new constitution, the result of a year of work begun after the social uprising of 2019 and which will be adopted by referendum in September got to.
“We must be proud that Chileans, at the time of the deepest crisis (…) that our country has known for decades, decided in favor of more democracy and not less,” explained Gabriel Boric during an official speech after receiving the text Ceremony at Parliament in Santiago. The left-wing president immediately signed a decree calling a referendum for September 4th. “Once again, the people will have the last word on their fate. We’re starting a new phase,” he said.
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The decision to draft a new constitution was approved by Chileans in a non-mandatory referendum in October 2020 (78%). Pinochet (1973-1990), remains in force.
In the process of handing over the text, the Constituent Assembly, made up of 154 independent citizens or political parties, was dissolved just a year after it began its work, on July 4, 2021.
Chile is defined as an “ecological” state
Seen as a way out of the political crisis of the 2019 uprising for more social equality, the constitutional project in its 388 articles ordains new social rights, the main demands of the demonstrators. In the first article, Chile is defined in particular as a “social and democratic constitutional state”, “multinational, intercultural and ecological” and “its democracy is equal”.
For a year, debates were lively in the Constituent Assembly, where independents were the most numerous with 104 seats and representatives of the right had no blocking majority. Two-thirds of the votes were required for the articles to be adopted.
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During Monday’s ceremony, supporters of the constitutional amendment unfurled the Chilean and Mapuche flags (the country’s main indigenous population of 1.7 million out of 19 million) in front of Parliament to the tune of anti-constitutional songs the dictatorship.
“It’s a very long job, you have to be patient and wait. It is the new generations who will reap the fruits of all this,” Diana Diaz, a 75-year-old pensioner, told Agence France-Presse, holding the Chilean flag. The long months of work were also marked by the dissemination of numerous false information about the articles under discussion on social networks.
democracy in action
“I invite you to intensively discuss the scope of the text, but not lies, distortions or catastrophic interpretations that are disconnected from reality,” demanded the head of state as the referendum campaign begins on Wednesday. The young Federal President (36) has reaffirmed his support for the draft constitution in recent weeks because he classifies the current Basic Law – passed in 1980 in the midst of a military regime and which limits state intervention as much as possible – as a “barrier” to any fundamental social Reform.
Entirely equal, the Constituent Assembly also had seventeen seats reserved for representatives of Chile’s indigenous people, including the Mapuches. For the Mapuche lawyer Natividad Llanquileo, who was elected to the assembly, the process “represented the most democratic space that we have known in the history of this country”.
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However, with two months to go before the referendum, many polls suggest that the right-backed “No” (Rechazo) could win. However, some Chileans acknowledge that they do not have a definitive opinion on the text, which will now be broadcast in full.
“It’s definitely going to be a very polarized campaign,” but “a little more content-centric,” predicts Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at Diego Portales University. “The ‘yes’ advocates need to convince that the text will really change people’s lives, while the ‘no’ advocates need to win over more moderate sectors,” he concludes.