Inaugural session of the Constitutional Council that will draft a new Constitution, inside the old Congress building in Santiago, on June 7, 2023.Esteban Felix (AP)
Since the Chilean Constitutional Council began voting on Friday, September 16, to prepare a draft Constitution, which must be delivered on October 7 to pass a second stage of review, the process has become tangled and runs a high risk of failure. This possibility has mobilized a group of political groups to conjure a new fiasco. The body made up of 50 members, where the left-wing ruling party only has 17 seats and the opposition 33, has approved amendments promoted by the far-right Republican Party, which has control with 22 delegates. If last week articles such as “the right to life of the unborn” were approved, the immediate expulsion of migrants who enter through unauthorized passages and the tax exemption for the first home (which benefits those with higher incomes) , this Monday the chapter on the National Congress was endorsed. Additionally, a rule was issued that reduces the current number of 155 deputies to 138.
The detractors of the draft are increasing with the days and, faced with the danger of a second defeat, the parties far from the extremes are attempting a rescue operation. The newspaper La Tercera reported that this Monday the presidents of the UDI and RN parties, from the traditional opposition right, and the Socialist Party, from the official left, met to find formulas and rescue the current process. Because, although there are still steps ahead to improve the text – on October 7 the new draft will return to the Expert Commission – these options become narrower with the hours.
It has been a complex process that, according to various opinion polls, not only does not have the interest or trust of citizens, but has also seen voter rejection increase despite the fact that it is not finished. In this regard, the Cadem survey on Sunday showed that 59% would not approve the new Constitution, two points more than a week ago. Only 21% are in favor of supporting the text in the December 17 plebiscite, the lowest figure in six months.
The tension within the Constitutional Council that has prevailed in the votes has gone beyond the plenary session. It happened because to the complex climate that is already experienced in the body between the ruling party and the opposition, criticism from the traditional right has now been added to the approved norms that have been promoted by the Republicans, whose leader, José Antonio Kast, wants to run for office. The Currency in 2025.
On Sunday, the mayor of Providencia, Evelyn Matthei, of the UDI, a party that is part of Chile Vamos and the main presidential card of the traditional right, said in an interview with CNN that this second constitutional process “is heading straight to failure and “The only way to close this issue is to have a final text that is as similar as possible to the experts’ text.” And she added: “I hope it can be approved. I am not saying that I am against approving a new Constitution. What I am saying is that this one, which the councilors are now writing, is not going to be approved, it has no chance of being approved” and that “the only way it can be approved is one that offers stability. That is, there must be a consensus, and that consensus is generated by the text of the experts, but not by what is being voted on today in the Council.”
Following Matthei’s warning, Kast began an offensive this Monday through his X account (exTwitter) and, during the day, he issued messages defending the Republican amendments and criticizing the opposition and the Government.
Apparently, the Government of Gabriel Boric, through its parliamentarians, has already decided to submit the experts’ draft as a constitutional reform to Congress.
They want to annul the Constitutional Council, elected by more than 12 million Chileans, as a secretary.
— José Antonio Kast Rist 🇨🇱 (@joseantoniokast) September 25, 2023
There is an underlying problem: “No one really wants to assume the cost of adhering to the Approve option only to end up being defeated, and probably annihilated in the exit plebiscite next December,” wrote Alfredo Joignant this weekend in EL PAÍS. This is what the Republican Party thinks Matthei, the right-winger who stands up to Kast with a more liberal speech, is trying to do: take off the weight of a possible defeat in the referendum and transfer it to the Republicans.
Matthei’s statements messed up the board. At this time, in Chile voices are being heard from the left that the draft of the Expert Commission – which produced a moderate and consensus draft – enters Congress as a constitutional reform and, in this way, skips the work of the Council. Kast is opposed: “They want to annul the Constitutional Council, elected by more than 12 million Chileans, as a secretary,” he wrote on the social network X, attributing this operation to the Boric Government.
UDI senator Javier Macaya, of the traditional right, expressed on Monday night his commitment to the current process, despite the statements of Matthei, who is a member of his party: “We are working so that ‘For’ wins on the 17th. December to have a good Constitution that closes the constituent issue and gives stability to Chile. We will not support the idea that the process continues after December 17 by bringing the experts’ text or something similar to Congress,” wrote the leader of this historic right-wing party.
A norm on parity rejected
Chile is in its second attempt in three years to change the Constitution that was born in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). In September of last year, 62% of citizens rejected the bill of laws presented by the Constitutional Convention, made up of a majority of left-wing independents. Today the Constitutional Council works on the basis of a preliminary draft that, between March and June, was drawn up by the Expert Commission, appointed by Congress at the proposal of the political parties to which today the opposition, especially the members of the Republican Party, have presented it. a series of amendments.
The change in the number of parliamentarians caused a new clash between the ruling party and the opposition. The norm obtained 30 votes in favor, but three councilors from the Chile Vamos conglomerate, from the traditional right, abstained from supporting it. On the other hand, the entire left voted against, which they blamed on the right, especially the Republicans, for not technically knowing the reasons for how that figure was reached (in Chile a previous reform had already been made to increase from 120 to 155 parliamentarians).
The plenary session also approved, among other rules, one that establishes that parliamentarians who resign from the party that declared their candidacy will cease their duties. It is a proposal to combat the wayward. The vote was unanimous.
Furthermore, during the plenary session, which brings together the discussion of the 50 members of the constitutional body, the transitional rule on gender parity in Congress was rejected, with the abstention of Republicans. Emanated from the Expert Commission, it was a proposal aimed at generating a balance of 60% and 40% between men and women, which implied a correction if it was not met. He would run for the two elections following the entry into force of the new text.
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