On Sunday (4), Chileans overwhelmingly rejected (more than 60% of votes) a new proposed Constitution for the country, criticized as “excessively progressive” for containing measures such as the expansion of State expenditures (in the creation of national social security and health systems, for example) without detailing where the resources to pay for this would come from, differentiated legal treatment for peoples Chilean natives and the constitutional provision for abortion.2022
The current Magna Carta, which came into force during the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973 -1990) and has undergone modifications since the return of democracy, has undergone changes in 2019 to predict the (now failed) new constituent process, and a of these amendments clearly establishes that, if the rejection of the new text was successful, the current Constitution would remain in force.
In other words, a new Magna Carta would require a drafting process starting from again from scratch. Left-wing president Gabriel Boric had already signaled during the referendum campaign that he would seek this path if the “no” won.
“If the alternative of rejection win, what will happen is that we will have to prolong this process for another year and a half (…). There has to be a new constituent process”, highlighted Boric in July, in an interview with the local television channel Chilevisión. “Everything will have to be discussed again, from scratch.”
Boric argued at the time that almost 80% of Chilean citizens “voted clearly who want a new Constitution” in the October plebiscite 2020, opting for “a new Constitution written by a body specially elected for this purpose”, the president claimed.
Boric is being investigated because the opposition denounced that he campaigned in favor of “yes” and disrespected the principle of dispensation, which establishes that no Chilean public official may use public resources or his working hours to favor an electoral option.
The text that was voted on on Sunday had been prepared by a leftist majority constituent assembly, elected after the protests of 2019 and 2020 against the center-right government of Sebastián Piñera (2018-2022).
On Sunday at night, after the victory of “no”, Boric made it clear that he will not give up on a new Cons title to Chile. “I promise to do everything on my part to build, together with Congress and civil society, a new constituent itinerary”, declared the president.
“The people of Chile spoke out and did so loud and clear. The Chileans demanded a new opportunity to meet and we must heed that call”, stated Boric.
This Monday (5), he met with the presidents of the Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies, Álvaro Elizalde and Raúl Soto, respectively, to discuss a new constituent process.
Elizalde, who is from the Socialist Party, a party that supports Boric, said after the meeting that the expectation is to “move forward quickly in this process, listening to the different perspectives and proposals of the different political parties, groups, social movements and civil society organizations”.
“We have to learn lessons what happened and, above all, we have to fulfill the mandate that the citizens have entrusted to us through an inclusive dialogue”, he argued.
However, it is not known what the format of this process would be. (Four options are speculated: a commission of experts, a mixed convention composed of parliamentarians and experts, the election of a new constituent assembly or that the text be prepared by the Chilean Congress), nor if Boric will have the political conditions to carry this idea forward.
The Chilean right controls half of the Senate and more of 40% of the Chamber. With the economic difficulties that Chile faces, only 37% of the population approves of the leftist president’s work – not coincidentally, a percentage practically equal to those who voted for the “yes” on Sunday.
The president of the conservative Independent Democratic Union party, Senator Javier Macaya, said that the opposition is not against revisions to the current Constitution or a new Magna Carta, but that it needs to represent a “social consensus” and not the agenda of a particular political field.
“We said from day one: the victory of ‘no’ is the victory of common sense and not of a political sector. A text that divided us was rejected. Today, the commitment is with a new opportunity for Chile, a new social pact and a good Constitution that unites our country”, he wrote on Twitter.