On September 4, Chileans go to the polls to decide whether or not to approve a proposal for a new Constitution for the country, which would replace the one that came into force on
, during the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet (1981-1990).
The text was prepared by a constituent assembly, elected after the protests of 2019 and 2020 against the right-wing president Sebastián Piñera. In the midst of this process, the country elected a leftist president, Gabriel Boric, but, judging by opinion polls (which indicate that the new Constitution should be rejected), the proposal for a new Magna Carta has been considered an excessive shift to the left until by many people who voted for the current occupant of the Palace of La Moneda.
The proposal for a new Constitution establishes a concept of “parity democracy” and proposes measures for gender equality, among them that women occupy at least % of positions in all State bodies.
By recognizing the peoples Chilean natives, the text determines the establishment of “indigenous regional autonomies”; if the new charter is approved, these populations will have political autonomy, they will have to be consulted and give authorization in matters concerning their rights and will have their legal systems recognized.
The lack of a better definition of these terms and their scope has aroused criticism in Chile, although the Constituent Assembly has noted that this deference cannot conflict with the country’s and international laws, nor serve territorial secession plans.
Chilean pro-life movements have also criticized the text, because it proposes to change the current constitutional provision for the protection of the unborn child to a section that aims to “ensure conditions for pregnancy, voluntary termination of pregnancy, childbirth and voluntary and protected motherhood”.
In other words: expanding the possibilities of abortion in Chile, which currently only allows it to save the mother’s life or in cases of fetal infeasibility or rape. In November of last year, Chile’s Chamber of Deputies rejected a bill that would decriminalize abortion in the country up to weeks of pregnancy, proposal that was filed for a period of one year.
The social demands of the protests of 2019 and were met in the proposal for a new Constitution, with the provision of creating national social security and health systems, along the lines of those that exist in Brazil.
Other items proposed are the definition of water as an “inappropriate” good and the end of the Senate, which would be replaced by a Chamber of Regions, restricted to “regional agreement” laws and no longer reviewing what is approved by the Chamber of Deputies.
Another questioned point is the prediction that there will be no more military police in the country – during the protests of 2019 and , the left criticized the Carabineros’ response to the demonstrations.
“Left wish list”
In an article in which he defends that the proposal for a new Constitution of Chile be rejected, the English magazine The Economist called the text a “fiscally irresponsible leftist wish list.”
The publication argued that the proposal “is a confusing mess, filled with imprecise language that will guarantee decades of dispute over what it really means” and which does not detail where the resources will come from to cover the planned social expenditures.
“The old Chilean Constitution was not perfect. In fact, it has been modified almost 60 times. But compared to what is proposed to be her replacement, she is a model of clarity. More importantly, this ancient guide to governing works. Since democracy was restored, Chile has been a success story in Latin America. GDP per capita has tripled since 1990 and poverty has decreased”, argued the Economist.
In a public letter, former Chilean president Eduardo Friar Ruiz-Tagle (1994-2000) highlighted that the new division of the national Parliament provided for in the new Magna Carta would generate an imbalance of power.
“It creates an omnipotent chamber and is subject to the fact that an occasional majority that controls the presidency and the political chamber can advance to a dictatorial regime, in the patterns that are becoming frequent around the world”, said Ruiz-Tagle, who also criticized the excess of powers attributed to the Council of Justice in the text, which opens the way for “judges to be politically controlled”.
He also warned that the changes concerning indigenous peoples represent a “threat” to the unity of the country. “The power given to native peoples to veto administrative or legislative initiatives constitutes a privilege that the rest of the citizens do not have”, he argued. Radio Bío Bío this week, 55, 7% of Chileans interviewed said they intend to vote against the proposed new Constitution.