32 years after the end of the dictatorship, Chile opens a new chapter. The Chileans voted on Sunday to draft a new constitution. The current one was decided without public debate under the dictator Augusto Pinochet.
According to initial results, 78 percent of Chileans voted to convene a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution.
79 percent of the voters were in favor of a new election and equal representation of this body. The elections are scheduled for April 2021, after which the assembly has one year to work out a design.
It’s a victory for the right-wing president’s critics
The plebiscite was postponed for six months due to the corona virus. The Chileans had been coming to the polling booths all day long; Voter turnout is probably one of the highest since voting was abolished in 2012.
It’s a victory for the critics of right-wing president Sebastián Piñera and the protest movement that started a year ago. The demonstrations were fueled by an increase in local transportation tariffs, but soon escalated to strikes, looting and sabotage. According to the UN, the crackdown on the protests by the military and the police has led to numerous human rights violations. 30 people died, more than 400 were injured and many were tortured. The government eventually gave in and approved the plebiscite. With flags, horn concerts and slogans such as “Chile has awakened” and “Pinochet, we are burying your legacy,” tens of thousands across the country celebrated the outcome of Sunday night’s vote.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera Photo: Claudio Reyes / AFP
The old constitution had many clauses that gave influence to the right wing elite and the military. Much of it has been reformed and democratized over the years. But above all, the neoliberal economic order that undermined the social solidarity pact was preserved.
While the model brought economic prosperity, there are problems with fiscal fairness and redistribution, according to the OECD. Poverty fell, but the middle class fell into debt and lived insecure lives.
Ten percent of Chileans own about 66 percent of the wealth; More than half of the population earns little more than the minimum wage, which is roughly 400 euros. Various groups have repeatedly expressed their anger in recent years. They demonstrated against mini-pensions and the privatization of education and health care, against overexploitation of nature, cronyism and corruption.
Women and indigenous peoples are getting a stronger presence
Political scientist Claudia Heiss from the State University of Chile was delighted with the outcome. The majority of Chileans do not support the old constitution and corrections, for example in the representation of women and indigenous people, are urgently needed to create a new, legitimate base.
Conservative constitutional lawyers like Professor Constanza Hube, on the other hand, pointed out that it is now starting all over and that a long legal tradition is being thrown overboard. Sociologist Patricio Nava feared that the new constitution could become a colorful statement of good intentions and ultimately come to nothing.
The Chilean elite are afraid of losing their privileges. The Mapuche indigenous people, on the other hand, expect more justice for the indigenous people, who make up 13 percent of the population. Feminists and representatives of the LGBT community want to break the conservative worldview and anchor greater equality. Sandra Weiss