In Chile, the Constituent Assembly writes the country’s future

This Wednesday, November 17, under the moldings of the hemicycle welcoming the Constituent Assembly, within the former Congress of Santiago, an unusual silence: its 155 elected representatives are on the ground, in order to transmit to the inhabitants of their district the progress of their work – a compulsory activity within the framework of their mandate. The existence of this assembly is unprecedented. And, much more than the election of the next president, its decisions could mark the life of Chile for the next decades: it must elaborate the new fundamental law of the country, a change desired by 78% of the voters in a referendum in the month. October 2020, before the election of the editors of this new text in May 2021.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers In Chile, a constituent assembly largely drawn from civil society

This is the main achievement of the historic social movement of 2019: in the street, the Chileans had demanded the burial of the current Constitution, approved in the midst of a dictatorship (1973-1990), accused of setting in stone the neoliberal bases of the country. “Despite the fragmentation of its composition, the Assembly succeeded in adopting its rules within the allotted time, in three months, it is a success”, remarks the political scientist Pamela Figueroa, member of the Observatory of the new Constitution, a group of academics which analyzes the mechanisms of the Assembly and advises it on the technical level. The adopted regulation establishes in particular the two-thirds vote for the approval of the texts, pushing the constituents to negotiations and compromises.

Another strong focus of the framework that she has given herself for her twelve months of work, officially started in July: citizen participation, with meetings in the field, public hearings open to civil society, the possibility for Chileans to collect signatures for the study of concrete proposals. “This is fundamental, because it conditions its legitimacy, but also participation in the referendum to approve the text, probably around September 2022”, anticipates Tomas Jordan, political scientist and lawyer, also member of the Observatory of the new Constitution.

“Left-right partisan logic”

Preparation of the drafting, around thematic committees, was launched on October 18, a symbolic date marking the second anniversary of the social movement in 2019. The general content of the final text does not generate suspense, however, the Assembly frankly leaning towards left: it should enshrine new social rights – access to healthcare, education, a retirement system, all public and of high quality -, but also the decentralization of power, protection of the environment, the recognition of populations native.

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In Chile, the Constituent Assembly writes the country’s future

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