Photo: Government of Chile/Disclosure
A month from now, on December 17, Chileans will return to the polls to endorse or not a proposed Constitution that replaces the one established in 1981 during the dictatorial period of General Augusto Pinochet. Everything indicates that for the second time in a row the Andean country will remain in an impasse, rejecting the proposal now generated mainly by forces on the right.
Surveys record high rejection of the text presented this week to President Gabriel Boric by the National Constituent Assembly elected last May and which has 34 of the 51 seats occupied by the Chilean Right and Far-Right.
“We went from one extreme to the other, without adequate consensus”, says Andras Uthoff, Economist and Former Regional Advisor of the International Labor Organization (ILO) who was part of the Commission on Pension System Reform and the Commission on Insurance System Reform of Health in Chile.
In this case, Uthoff makes a comparison to the Constitution proposal that was not approved in September of last year and which was strongly aligned with ideas from the left and center-left that made up, at the time, the majority of the Assembly elected in May 2021.
A survey carried out by the research institute Cadem shows that only 32% of voters would be willing to say Yes in the referendum. According to the institute, 50% will vote against the proposal and 15% have not yet taken a position.
A I will fall is the main market and public opinion research company in Chile.
What is certain is that amid the imbroglio, Chilean political analysts believe that during the Yes and No campaigns, part of the electorate will tend to support the new Constitution as they see it as a better text than Pinochet’s Constitution.
Something, however, that is unlikely to reverse the trend of its likely rejection in the referendum.
If for Beatriz Hevia, the right-wing lawyer who presided over the Constitutional Council (Constituent Assembly), the wording of the text takes into account, in her words, “concerns from all sectors” and that ideas dear to the left were incorporated, the same does not is understood by socialist Alejandro Kohler, who was also a member of the Constitutional Council.
“Exclusive, dogmatic and does not take into account the diversity that characterizes our country”, he summarized when remembering the movements in the second half of 2019 that took over the streets of Chile for a change in the country’s political system.
For economist Uthoff, the proposition is completely outside the expectations of the 2019 street movements.
“Only the PGU (Universal Guaranteed Pension) coverage was expanded. Nothing about health. Nothing in housing. Nothing in education”, summarizes Uthoff.
Apart from maintaining the prominent role of the private sector in the health and education sectors, another point that draws attention is the autonomy of the Central Bank of Chile, which was not considered ultra-liberal in Pinochet’s Constitution.
However, the controversies are not limited to economic issues or the role of the State. They advance to the so-called customary and migratory patterns.
In one of the excerpts of the proposal that will go to referendum it is mentioned that “the law protects the life of those who are about to be born”.
This raises the question of whether access policies to contraceptive methods will be maintained and the possibility of reversing current legislation that allows the termination of pregnancy.
In Chile, abortion is allowed in cases of rape, when the mother’s life is at risk or in situations where doctors say that the fetus will not survive outside the uterus.
On the migration issue, the proposal provides that any foreigner who enters Chile illegally must be expelled from the country as quickly as possible.
Better to stay as is
Given what is considered a strong reaction from the Right to the proposal rejected in September 2022, sectors of the center-left and left believe that the best option would be to maintain the 1981 Constitution.
“In general, it was an exaggerated reaction that also affects the government’s program more than a Constitution. The current proposal is a reaction to the victory of the right in the election of commissioners, which reversed everything that was advanced in value proposals and minimizes the role of the State in the economy”, says Uthoff.
For him, despite the rejection “generating a significant void in support for political institutions and a reaction from citizens”, the best option is “to continue improving Pinochet’s constitution”.
The current Chilean Constitution has already had important points reformed by President Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006) and recent governments.
Specifically, despite being criticized for its origins, it is easier to change little by little, unlike a new constitution being approved.
Despite the remote possibility of approval, Florencio Valenzuela, executive secretary of La Federación Nacional de Sindicatos de Colegios Particulares (which represents private school teachers in Chile), reports that “the Right has already started an impressive press campaign so that there is a reversal”.
He recalls that a similar campaign, but in the opposite direction of approval, was responsible for the non-approval of the constitutional proposal presented previously.
The post first appeared on www.extraclasse.org.br