Changes in Chile will have to wait. The political process that began almost three years ago with an unprecedented social outburst culminated this Sunday in a plebiscite in which the new Constitution was rejected (61.8% compared to 38.1%). The resounding victory of the supporters of the “rejection” (the right and a part of the center-left) is a blow for the progressive president Gabriel Boric, whose social transformation agenda was linked to the constitutional process, and opens a period of uncertainty in the country. The Magna Carta approved in 1980 by the dictator Augusto Pinochet, although reformed, is still in force.
With the rejection of the Constitution elaborated during a year by the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention, Chile leaves in a dead letter the social reforms contemplated by the norm delivered to the government in July. A text that proposed a new country model, multinational, parity, social and ecological. What will happen from now? The government is in favor of starting a new constitutional process that will probably be controlled by the political establishment with the help of constitutional experts.
Boric will seek parliamentary consensus to relaunch this new constituent process. This same Monday he will meet with the leaders of all the parties with parliamentary representation to try to articulate a common strategy, according to what he announced last night after knowing the results of the plebiscite. In his speech, the president promised to build with Congress and civil society “a new constituent itinerary that manages to interpret a broad citizen majority”. Boric will also meet with the president of the Senate, Álvaro Elizalde (of the Socialist Party), and with the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Raúl Soto (of the center-left Party for Democracy). In In any case, it will be necessary to wait 125 days, according to the electoral law, to carry out a new election of constituents.
The right grouped in Chile Vamos has also been in favor of undertaking a new constitutional process assuming some of the proposals of the text rejected this Sunday. It remains to be seen, however, what kind of reforms are willing to approve political parties that for the last 30 years have been an active part of an inherited neoliberal system of the dictatorship. That subsidiary State is the one that sought to challenge a Constitution that was committed to strengthening public services and expanding social rights.
The polls already predicted a victory for the “rejection” although not by such a wide margin. The high participation in the referendum due to the obligatory nature of the vote has finally benefited this option. Alerted by demographic estimates, Boric had held meetings in recent days with politicians of different persuasion. One of his interlocutors was the former president Ricardo Lagosin favor of a new constituent process.
The right is not going to make it easy for Boric. Several conservative congressmen have already warned him that in order to reach transversal agreements they will not admit unidirectional proposals sent from the Coin Palace. Now they have the upper hand again, as before the social explosion. While he negotiates with the conservative sectors, Boric will have to reorder his own ranks as well. the coalition I approve Dignity (made up of the Broad Front and the Communist Party) now occupies the hard core of La Moneda. It is very likely that after the result of the referendum the socialist sector that supports the government will demand a greater role in decision-making.
Although Boric has tried to differentiate the course of his government from the fate of the new Constitution, his political agenda ran parallel to the constituent process. The defeat of “approval” does not prevent you from moving forward with his electoral promises, such as the tax reform, but it leaves him politically very weakened. Six months after coming to power, he will have to face his first government crisis with some ministerial changes.
In the triumph of “rejection” The disinformation campaign about the constitutional text has had a lot to do with it. It was even said that the rule endangered private property and that it broke up the country by recognizing and granting rights to indigenous peoples. Even before the campaign, the inappropriate behavior of some members of the Constitutional Convention. And the social consensus that emerged at the end of 2020 in the consultation for a new Constitution (greater than 78%) was gradually diluted.
The members of the Convention, elected at the polls in May 2021, largely represented the groups that had demanded a less unequal country in the protests of October 2019. Chile was experiencing an unprecedented process, a joint constituent assembly, with representatives of the native peoples and a large number of independents outside the big parties, such as those that made up the Town List. The evolution of this popular platform, which almost all its members finally abandoned, synthesizes the setbacks and mistakes that were made due to inexperience or arrogance. In case of Rodrigo Rojas it was especially painful. Icon of the 2019 protests, the activist used an alleged diagnosis of leukemia as a flag to fight against the system until it was discovered that it was all a farce. His resignation was a serious blow to the Convention. But it does not blur the work done for a year by the vast majority of the constituents, a handful of men and women who wanted to put an end to 30 years of social injustice by drafting a feminist, ecological and intercultural Constitution that will no longer see the light of day in Chile.