1. Why a new Constitution now?
This was one of the demands of the demonstrators who took to the streets of the country en masse in October 2019. They demanded, among other things, to review the 1980 Constitution, which they designated as the source of the inequalities which afflict Chilean society.
A political agreement was reached and, in May 2021, Chileans elected 155 constituents, mostly from civil society. Half of the seats were reserved for women and 17 for Aboriginal people.
The result of their work is a 178-page text, made up of 388 articles, which emphasizes the recognition of social rights, environmental protection and equality.
Art.1.1. Chile is a social and democratic state of law. It is multinational, intercultural, regional and ecological.
Delivered to the president on July 4, the draft Constitution must now be put to a vote, which will be compulsory for Chileans aged 18 and over. To enter into force, this new Constitution must be adopted by a simple majority.
2. What does the new Constitution offer?
The project differs fundamentally from the previous text, written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
The new Constitution proposes another model of countryargues Rossana Castiglioni, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and History of the Diego Portales University, in Santiago.
A crucial point, she thinks, is how one conceives of the role of the state. In the 1980 Constitution, it had a subsidiary role to that of the private sector.
The state only intervened when all else had failedunderlines Ms. Castiglioni.
In addition to recognizing a social and democratic State of law, the new Constitution grants it great preeminence.
” It’s a paradigm shift. »
This translates into a long list of social rights that were part of the demands of the protesters, including the right to housing, water, social security, work and adequate food and
culturally relevant. It establishes universal access to health, education and information technology, among others.
Art.1.3. It is the duty of the State to create the necessary conditions and provide the goods and services to ensure the equal enjoyment of rights and the integration of people into political, economic, social and cultural life for their full development.
This recognition of the social state of law,
it is the heart of the Constitutionsays Domingo Lovera, director of the public law program at Diego Portales University.
The project also recognizes the existence of indigenous peoples (whose right to self-determination is established), and provides for the creation of bodies for citizen participation and direct democracy. Parity is written into it: public institutions and bodies must ensure that at least half of their members are women.
The icing on the cake is that it recognizes the rights of children and adolescents, which were absent from the previous Constitutionunderlines Mr. Lovera.
3. What do people think?
Chileans are divided. After voting in favor of replacing the Constitution and for a Constituent Assembly elected by the people to take on this task rather than politicians, not everyone is satisfied with the result.
According to the most recent polls, rejection leads by 48% against 38% for approval, with 14% undecided. However, the gap has narrowed a little compared to previous soundings and Domingo Lovera, who is in favor of the project, thinks that the games are not yet made.
Copies of the draft Constitution, just published, are flying like hot cakes. At least 70,000 copies have found takers.
It’s the best-selling book in the country.remarks Mr. Lovera.
We are already at the ninth edition.
” People are reading it, learning about it, and asking questions in the discussion forums. They want to make an informed decision. »
It is the undecided who will tip the balance, believes for her part Rossana Castiglioni. Voting will be mandatory on September 4. However, during the last elections, in particular for the Constituent Assembly project, barely half of the population exercised their right to vote, she underlines.
What will happen with the other half? We ignore it. We don’t know how they line up.
4. What are the main criticisms?
The draft Constitution is a poorly put together motley assembly whose failure was quite predictable, says Juan Carlos Arellano, professor of political science at the Catholic University of Temuco, Chile.
The way in which the members of the Constituent Assembly were chosen allowed the election of independent candidates who became the standard bearers of very diverse causes, such as the environment, the indigenous question or gender.
We now find ourselves with a Constitution that tries to please each of these movements, he observes. After having obtained that the cause which was close to their heart is found in one of the articles, they assume a position
triumphalistinstead of listening to citizens.
Result: many felt left behind.
” We have created expectations of citizen participation that have not been fulfilled. We are far from the national unity that we were looking for after the social crisis. »
The presence of so many independent candidates, with no affiliation with traditional political parties, which had been very positively received at the start, ultimately proved to be rather difficult to manage, also believes Rossana Castiglioni.
They lacked the political experience necessary to negotiate and were unwilling to give in on these issues which they considered fundamental. But what seems reasonable from an individual perspective may be a problem from a collective perspective.
” This complicated negotiations between members of the Assembly and alienated some people who did not read the whole text but who hung on to one particular aspect, which is important to them and on which they have the feeling of taking a step back. »
Recognition of Indigenous rights is one of the issues that divides Chileans.
The new Constitution declares Chile to be a multinational and intercultural state, recognizes the right to land restitution and allows for the creation of a separate legal system.
This scares a lot of people, notes Mr. Arellano. While most Chileans approve of the recognition of indigenous peoples, they consider certain provisions to be excessive, in particular the existence of two justice systems.
There would be a justice for the Chileans and another for the Nativeshe notes.
We wonder how it will work and we worry about the inequality it could create between citizens.
About 10% of Chileans, or 2 million people, declare themselves to be of indigenous origin. Some 17 of the 155 seats in the Constituent Assembly were reserved for them.
The recognition of the rights of other historically marginalized groups, such as sexual minorities or women, as well as the right to abortion, also pose problems for certain more conservative sectors, observes Domingo Lovera.
Other criticisms are linked to institutional innovations, such as the elimination of the Senate, which will be replaced by a Regional Chamber.
” Chile is a fractured society that has significant disagreements about how to organize itself politically. When we enter into a process of constitutional redefinition, it is logical that these disagreements come to the surface. »
5. What will happen if the Chileans reject the project?
It is the current Constitution, inherited from the dictatorship, but amended several times, which would remain in force.
However, the Chilean President, Gabriel Boric, maintained that the Chileans having disavowed the Constitution of 1980, in the event of rejection of the project, a new Constituent Assembly should be elected in order to draft a new document.
” If the rejection [de la Constitution] wins, we are going to have to prolong this process for another year and a half, and everything will have to be discussed again from scratch. »
In the meantime, the Senate recently passed a bill that simplifies amendments to the current Constitution. It will soon be studied in the Chamber of Deputies.
One way or another, change is inevitable, believes Rossana Castiglioni.
The Constitution in force today was designed in sin, between four walls, without democratic and deliberative debatesshe notes.
Although the text has undergone changes over the years, they are temporary and do not fundamentally change the situation.
” It is clear that people do not want the status quo to be maintained. »
Even the right, which is the most opposed to the idea of change, ended up joining it, notes Mr. Arellano.
Our country will have a new Constitution, but it is not sure that it will be this onehe says.