In Chile, a new draft constitution was put to the test through a referendum

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On Sunday, August 4, around 15 million voters were called to the polls to vote on the country’s new constitution, inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The proposed text is completely at odds with the current Basic Law.

September 4th is especially steeped in history In Chile : Conspiracies or revolutions took place on this day throughout the 19th centurye century Many politicians, such as Salvador Allende in 1970, won their presidential victories on this date. And next September 4th may coincide with a new historical phase, when Chileans have the possibility of sending the constitution imposed in 1980 into oblivion. Augusto Pinochet’s military regimeA text that has been modified many times, but never changed.

The scaremongering efforts launched after the return of democracy in 1990 never succeeded, especially when it came up against the highest approval required in both houses of parliament. A powerful anti-social movement The situation came to change in October 2019: after weeks of violent demonstrations, President Sebastián Piñera adopted a new Basic Law, one of the main demands emerging from the street. On November 15, 2019, the main political actors of the country “Agreement for Social Peace and the New Constitution”.

A year later, in October 2020, population consultation and The overwhelming vote (78.28%) was to create a new text.. The 155-member Constituent Assembly is then elected on an egalitarian basis, specifically reserving 17 seats for the country’s indigenous peoples. The final draft of the constitution was presented on July 4: a 178-page text, recently described as “humanitarian”. In the daily Le Monde By Elisa Loncon Antileo, President of the Constituent Assembly. “New important principles have been established there, including the most important ones that guarantee the rights of citizens to education, public health, decent pensions, housing… – and democratic rights”, summarizes this activist and scholar of the Mapuche people.

Recognition of tribal peoples

The question of the rights of indigenous peoples has gained increasing prominence in the past few weeks. According to Article 2, “Sovereignty rests with the people of Chile, made up of several nations”. The draft constitution establishes the creation of indigenous territorial autonomy and recognizes the existence of legal provisions for indigenous peoples.

If the text warns against any “territorial partition”, this formulation is insufficient to reassure those who fear that tribal peoples will benefit from privileged status. By the Mapuche who make up about 10% of the population. The community has been demanding the return of their native lands for decades. And his demands may find an entirely different resonance with the new constitution.

“This text provides that indigenous communities can vote on matters that concern them. But some have said that they can now veto all laws in the country, which is completely false”, explains Claudia Hayes, an academic for France 24 El Chile. Professor of the Faculty of Government of the University of Chile in Santiago, who has worked for many years on the question of constitutional reform.

A staunch defender of the text proposed for the referendum, she underlines its considerable progress in terms of equality between the sexes, recognition of the rights of nature and consideration of the digital rights of citizens. But how much social issues does she know – Abortion is highly prohibited in Chile – Weigh the will of the voters. The text provides that the state can “guarantee conditions” for pregnancy, childbirth, maternity or voluntary termination of pregnancy, which are “voluntary and protected”. “On this question, as on other points, everything is a question of interpretation. The new constitution does not give details, and then it is up to the legislators to define the texts,” explains Claudia Hayes. And to add: “This constitution finally opens a door. 1980 blocked progress in many fields.”

Compulsory vote

After more than thirty years of neoliberalism, there will be no shortage of projects if a new text is adopted that aims to provide more security in a country marked by deep social inequalities. A profound change that will take years and lead to a change in Chilean political life. Because the text also proposes the disappearance of the Senate by 2026, to make room for the Council of Regions, responsible for managing local issues as closely as possible.

“This chamber will have much less controlling power, and powers will be concentrated within the House of Representatives,” fears political scientist and historian Patricio Cajardo. Guest of a debate on France 24 channel in Spanish. The academic deplores the “illusions” of the text, which promises many social improvements without the slightest trace of funding, while the local economy will experience a recession in 2022. Also, the “right to decent and adequate housing” is presented as a scare by some opponents of this constitutional draft, who do not hesitate to threaten expropriations.

The intense political debate over the past two months has been punctuated by waves of misinformation, highlighting the fear felt by many voters in the face of a speech that fears some action. The field of denial is wide and there are even representatives of the center-left who oppose this version. A majority of voters are expressing their intention to reject it, with most polls expecting a big win for the “Rezaso” camp by 10 points.

Voting will be a deciding factor in the election, which is the first time in Chile’s history that voting will be mandatory for everyone over 18, with fines for non-committals. Duty. The expected mobilization of the youth should work in favor of the ratification of the new constitution. If “I ratify” prevails, the 1980 text will be replaced and transitional provisions will come into effect. Conversely, if rejected, The new president is Gabriel Boric Trying to start a new constitutional process will be a very difficult task.

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