Chile will begin to write its new Constitution on July 4, the day in which the first session of the Constitutional Convention will be held, the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera, reported this Sunday.
The inaugural session of the convention will take place at the headquarters of the National Congress in Santiago de Chile and will be dedicated to electing a president and a vice president.
From there, the constituent body, made up equally – something unprecedented in the world – of 155 delegates, including 17 representatives of indigenous peoples, will have nine months – extendable by three – to draw up a new fundamental charter, which will be submitted in 2022 to a referendum with compulsory voting.
The 155 members were elected at the polls on May 15 and 16, within the framework of a constituent process that was born from an agreement between the political parties to quell the citizen protests that broke out in October 2019 against the country’s socioeconomic model.
“A HISTORICAL MILESTONE”
“This Constitutional Convention will be a historic milestone. For the first time in our history we will be democratically writing a new Constitution for Chile (…) It represents a great opportunity to achieve broad and solid agreements, which allow to give rise to a Constitution that is recognized and respected by all, “said Piñera.
In his speech, from the Palacio de La Moneda (seat of the Government), the president explained that the mission that the constituents have “will require greatness, vision, wisdom and patriotism”, since it will have to reach agreements by two thirds of the members of the convention to approve provisions.
LIMITS OF THE CONVENTION
Piñera also recalled the limits that the work of the constituents will have, which although it will have “significant degrees of autonomy,” does not have among its missions to govern or legislate, tasks that correspond to the Government and Congress.
Likewise, he stressed that the convention “cannot be attributed the exercise of sovereignty, nor assume other attributions that have not been expressly conferred upon it.”
The president thus responded to the call made last week by a group of constituents to “make effective the popular sovereignty” of the convention and not to adjust to the limits established for their work in the agreement of the political forces in November 2019 that began to the constituent process.
The 155 constituents elected to the Convention represent various political, social, cultural and ethnic sectors of the country, with people without membership in traditional political parties being the ones who make up the largest internal force within the body (48).
The surprising success of the independents in the May constituent elections, in the opinion of experts, meant the final ratification of the deep crisis of representation suffered by the traditional Chilean political parties.
The divided opposition of the center and the left has 53 seats between its two blocks, while the ruling right has 37. In addition, there are 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples: seven for the Mapuche people, two for the Aymara people and one for kawésqar, rapanui, yagán, quechua, atacameño, diaguita, colla and chango.
The work of the Executive during the process will be to provide technical, administrative and financial support for the installation and operation of the Constitutional Convention.
The current Chilean Magna Carta dates back to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and is considered by some sectors as the straitjacket that supports the country’s neoliberal system, which led it to be the target to change during the protests in recent years to move towards a social welfare state.