Although the forecasts gave rejection as the favourite, no one expected such an overwhelming victory for this option as the one that occurred on September 4 in the Chilean constitutional plebiscite. The new proposal to replace the Constitution inherited from the dictatorship was rejected by a categorical 62% of Chileans, with more than 3 million votes difference compared to the I approve option. How did Chile get there and how do you get out of this situation to continue betting on the changes demanded by citizens?
Complex scenarios where they exist and, also, surprising.
Chile manifested itself forcefully on October 25, 2020 in a plebiscite to enter the that 80% of voters said they were in favor of a new Constitution drawn up by a constituent assembly. Two years later, 62% of Chileans vote against the proposed text.
With the difference that the compulsory vote and the participation of 85%, that is, 13 of the 15 million Chileans summoned to the polls they caused nearly 8 million people to choose rejection, which is more people overall than vote in a typical presidential election.
President Gabriel Boric was categorical in pointing out in his speech on Sunday that “the people of Chile have spoken” “loudly and clearly”, stating that “they were not satisfied with the proposal” of the Convention.
Failure of the Constitutional Convention
In reality, the electoral results cannot be interpreted if not as a fierce criticism of the proposal of the Constitutional Convention, whose failure would be undoubted.
The offer of the constitutional text “was poorly evaluated by the citizens, the work of the Convention, the text that also presented some problems and some misgivings,” Nicolás Freire, a political scientist and academic at the Central University of Chile, explains to France 24, for who one of the keys to the rejection was that “the text entrenched itself in one political camp, that of the left”, leaving empty “a center and center-left political space that ended up voting rejection to explain that this country does not really want such changes radical but more moderate”, he analyzes.
However, for many, the result is closely linked to the work of the Constitutional Convention, made up of 154 conventions, 76% of them left-leaning and independent, with equal numbers of men and women and representation of 17 indigenous seats.
“The campaign was lost in the work of the Convention. Here there were from initial situations, from a conventional man who lied” feigning an illness he did not have, Rodrigo Rojas Vade, and being forced to give up “others who had an arrogance, absurd and enormous, and they were above all the characters on the List of People” positioned more to the left and originating from the demonstrations of the social outbreak of 2019, “but which could also be observed in Conventions of the Communist party and in some of Approve Dignidad” of the official government coalition, says Freire.
loss of legitimacy
He cites, among several examples, the case of the former vice president of the Convention Jaime Bassa, who “from being a lawyer who raised the ideas of the privileges that others had, ended up becoming someone who one day before the election called the voters to reject , of the ‘delay’”, says the analyst.
It is for these reasons that the conventional ones “were the fort of why everything ended like this and they are the main responsible”, he adds, along with other elements such as the text, he left with ideas that were not always easy to understand that had to be explained, he says.
The conventional ones were undoubtedly “a factor of discredit and loss of legitimacy for a process that initially had 80% support,” agrees Marcelo Mella, a political analyst at the University of Santiago.
In addition, “they systematically excluded a sector”, the center-right liberal sector, a democratic opposition, which ended up feeling marginalized. “If the Constitutional Convention had managed to build agreements including on certain issues the proposals of the liberal right, I think we would have avoided the situation that was generated with the overwhelming rejection of the project,” adds the political analyst.
Freire agrees on this point when pointing out that there was also a partial text “because the right was excluded”, so the common good was put above, “than listening to the other” and made issues such as plurinationality very objected by the citizens, including by the native peoples who voted in their districts for the majority rejection.
“A disastrous Convention ended up curdling,” he continues, with a text with good and bad parts “where the mantle of pride of many and many prevailed.”
Some content undoubtedly generated resistance and amplified fears and uncertainty in an adverse economic scenario, Mella agrees, such as “the change in the nomenclature of the name of the judiciary, poorly developed concepts” such as the need for indigenous consent and its scope that generates a debate interpretation that continues until the vote, a legislative power lacking in balance, among others that “although certain principles may be shared” it was necessary to be more careful in a more gradual implementation.
In addition to all this, effects such as the economic crisis should be considered “the same people may have a different risk assessment” in the face of an economic situation so dramatically different from the last two years as a result of the international crisis and Covid-19, he explains. the USACH analyst.
President Boric also highlighted in his speech other issues that have been affecting Chilean citizens, such as the unusual inflation, the significant rise in crime, the problems with the Mapuche conflict in the south of the country, or the waiting lists in the health, the quality of education or low pensions. “The challenges of our country are not exhausted in the constitutional question,” he said on Sunday.
President Boric had already traced a way out if he won the rejection before the plebiscite, by declaring that another constitutional process would begin until a text is generated that brings about agreements for all Chileans. On Sunday he reinforced that idea by speaking of a “constituent itinerary,” noting that its “deadlines and borders” would be defined shortly. The talks began this Monday, the day after the election. However, the president has already made it clear that the National Congress -one of the most fragmented in democracy in Chile- “must be the main protagonist” of this process.
“It is inevitable that the Constituent process will resume soon, after the 125 days established by law to establish a new electoral process,” explains Mella. “Clearly the political parties act under the urgent need to resume it” if they do not want to assume the costs of not advancing in this area in upcoming electoral processes. Most of the parties of the Chilean political arc – from communism to sectors of the liberal right – except for the Republican Party of José Antonio Kast – will be “committed to retaking the agenda of the constituent process in the shortest possible time,” he says. Nick.
Both the constitutional process and the profound reforms that the Boric government wants to undertake would be favored, according to this political analyst, by the agreement reached in Congress before the plebiscite of reduce the need for a majority in the current Constitution from 2/3 to 4/7a historic struggle that could finally materialize and that facilitates the reforms.
Does it strengthen the result to the right?
For Freire, this result “so overwhelming allows groups that are at the extremes to be more reluctant to the process”, although the majority of political parties consider Augusto Pinochet’s Constitution to be dead in life and understand this result as “a rejection of this more not to have a new Constitution”, says Freire.
The political scientist highlights “the discourse of the right at the end of the election”, which was favorable to a new constituent process “where availability to generate constitutional changes is verified.” Although, obviously, they have a stronger and “negotiable” position, not to avoid the process, but to negotiate the changes that will be included in it, which will limit their depth in issues such as pensions, police reform or others.
“It is a mistake to interpret this as an electoral victory for the right, it is not, it is a citizen victory. Believing that 62% of Chileans will vote for the right is absurd. In this instance, 62% aligned with an idea that is not necessarily linked to the right”, he is clear in pointing out. But there is a risk “that the right has the mirage of making that reading,” he indicates.
A much more complex reality than thinking that Chile has returned to the past of the moorings and legacy of a dictatorship that it has wanted to leave behind for a long time, although it has not yet agreed on how.