February 9, 2023

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Success of “Rejection” | Chile’s (apparent) Paradox: 3 Factors to Understand Rejection of New Constitution, While Nearly 80% Support Change | Gabriel Boric | the world

Despite nearly 80% voter turnout in October 2020 They voted in favor of changing the constitution and did so through a constitutional convention, almost two years after that process’s resulting text was widely rejected in a referendum to exit the constitutional process.

The 155-member convention that developed the proposal was elected in a referendum and its structure reflects citizens’ demands for equality, diversity, indigenous representation and freedom from traditional politics. But the text he spent 12 months preparing failed to convince a majority of voters and won 38% support.

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It is, at first sight, a Contradiction In a country that saw the constitutional process as a way out of the crisis of 2019’s social eruption.

After giving his strong support for constitutional change in a referendum to enter Chile’s constitutional process and voting for president in December 2021 Gabriel BoricIn favor of “acceptance”, the majority decided to reject the alternative offered to him in his exit poll this Sunday.

One of the main demands of the protesters was constitutional reform. (Getty Images)

BBC Mundo explains three factors that influenced the decision.

1. Other alternatives to constitutional change

In the days leading up to the referendum, both parties committed to continuing the constituency process regardless of the outcome of the referendum, even as the governing parties endorsed it and the political opposition encouraged rejection.

Against this background, the outcome of the referendum does not reflect a rejection of constitutional change, but Objection to the proposed text.

In a public commitment to a new constitution, the opposition proposed a move towards a social law and, marking a difference with the Convention’s proposal, offered to defend the Senate, instead of the Chamber of Regions, and to recognize Chile as a multicultural state instead of a multinational state.

Congress approved the reduction of the quorum required to reform the 1980 constitution, which is still in place in the country, after a rejectionist victory this Sunday.

Celebrations in Chile before the Constitution was rejected.  (Getty Images)
Celebrations in Chile before the Constitution was rejected. (Getty Images)

In the message of the relevant law, the referendum is expressly mentioned, reducing the quorum “on the one hand, will prevent the argument that the agenda of deep changes cannot be implemented (. ..) and, on the other hand, will facilitate the formation of the necessary majority to continue the constitutional process if the proposed text of the new constitution is not approved by the citizens” .

President Gabriel Boric, who as vice-chancellor signed the agreement that opened the roadmap for constitutional change in 2019, pledged on television before the vote if he won the rejection. It is appropriate to open a new constitutional process.

“For me, what’s at stake today is whether we go back to square one if the ‘rejection’ wins and we have to start a new constitutional process, because here there was already a constitutional reform. The current constitution of 1980 was reformed, and it was by a 100% elected convention.

“One is that we approve a new constitution, and this new constitution can be modified by the same regulations,” the president said in late August.

The 2019 protests were described as the largest since Chile's return to democracy.  (EPA)
The 2019 protests were described as the largest since Chile’s return to democracy. (EPA)

Government parties’ agreement to make a series of reforms, if the text is approved, aimed at addressing some of the key concerns of citizens. But he also pointed out that, if ratified, the newly written constitution would face some immediate reforms in Congress.

“I feel that this is a very rare act in the history of Chile and the history of referendums. The campaign was presented as an election for the lesser evil. ‘Approval’ gave it a tone, although this project is not good, it is better than the constitution. And like ‘rejection’,” the academic of the Catholic University and public opinion Expert Roberto Mendes told BBC Mundo.

“It has to do with the situation in Chile, even with the aesthetics of the process, that alienated people. The process did not end on September 4, and regardless of the outcome, the impression was established that we have been involved for a long time. We will discuss the procedures over the years”.

2. Criticisms on the text

Although prominent international constitutionalists have highlighted quality and innovation in constitutional proposals, particularly in areas such as equality and environmental protection, the text has faced Various critics in the country.

A box containing constitutional referendum votes.  (Reuters)
A box containing constitutional referendum votes. (Reuters)

In the rejected document, for example, the Chilean government was defined as multinational. As political scientist Pamela Figueroa told BBC Mundo, Rejectionist groups associate diversity with the country’s segregation And while framing Indigenous peoples as a privileged group, that discourse permeated the national debate.

The length and complexity of the constitutional proposal, coupled with misinformation spread on social networks, despite supporters of ‘consent’ stressing the need to read the proposal, and despite the fact that the text is among the best-selling publications in the country. Doubts about its content grow among a significant portion of the electorate.

While affirming that the country’s territory was indivisible, the text ordered the creation of indigenous regional autonomies, and promoted respect for indigenous justice systems, which identified a segment of the population as contrary to the principle of equality before the law.

The idea that the new constitution would not protect home ownership was so widespread that the ruling parties had to put on record that it would be protected under all circumstances.

3. Evaluation of the conference

Although trust in political parties, the Chamber and the Senate is declining in the country, disputes over the development of the Constitutional Convention and difficulties in communicating their work are creating distance with a section of citizens.

Demonstration against the constitution in Chile.
Demonstration against the constitution in Chile.

Shortly after its establishment, a regular campaigner testifying to the country’s shortcomings in health matters admitted to lying about his cancer diagnosis.

Although the Convention developed a more complex task over time and under agreed conditions, the more radical declarations and gestures of its members had a wider impact on the public debate, although they did not pass the two-thirds required for inclusion.

More than half of the reasons, according to a CEP survey published at the end of the module A ‘no’ vote is associated with a critical view of the conference.

Next steps

Chile is one of the few countries in Latin America that has maintained a recognized constitution under a military dictatorship in democracy. The first reform processes arose from the moment of the return of power to citizens in 1989 and lasted until 2005.

In 2015, former President Michelle Bachelet proposed a way to change the constitution, but in 2018, the government of her successor, Sebastián Piñera, announced its intention not to continue the process.

Chilean flag in front of Government House.
Chilean flag in front of Government House.

After the social eruption of 2019, amid massive protests, the opposition and the government agreed to a deal that led to a constitutional process that ended with rejection this Sunday.

As a result, the constitutional legal journey framed in the “Treaty for Peace and a New Constitution” signed in November 2019 is closed as a way out of the political and social crisis created by the social explosion.

immediately, Chile will continue under the 1980 Constitution. Writing a new constitution or reforming the current Magna Carta depends on citizens, the political will to advance commitments, and agreements reached and ratified in both houses of the Chilean Congress and the Senate. Majority opposition.

A man has voted against the new constitution in Chile.  (Reuters)
A man has voted against the new constitution in Chile. (Reuters)
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