Chile seeks consensus when drafting the new constitution to avoid the failure of the previous one
On Monday, Chile began writing a proposal for a new constitution with the formation of a committee of 24 experts, 12 men and 12 women, elected by Congress. The South American country is trying to replace the current Magna Carta for the second time in less than four years, after 62% of citizens rejected the previous proposal in September 2022. The group, made up mostly of jurists, will be led by a woman, as the progressive asked: Attorney Veronica Onduraga, From the centre-left Party for Democracy (PPD). Meanwhile, the right was left with the Vice-President, in the hands of the constitutionalist Sebastian Soto, close to former President Sebastián Piñera and representative of Ivopoli, forming an opposition.
The Committee of Experts took office this morning in a solemn ceremony in the Senate of Santiago de Chile. He has three months to prepare the text that will serve as the basis for the work of the Constitutional Council, a joint body of 50 councilors who will be elected by citizens on May 7. This stage begins with a challenge: the lack of interest and distrust of Chileans in the current constituent process, as evidenced by various surveys. According to the Pulso Ciudadano poll, although 50.9% of the population approve of changing the constitution, 57.1% have little or no confidence in the new process.
The modesty and moderation of the ceremony in which the committee assumed its duties, and to which the authorities were not invited, was reflected, from the secret access of the counsellors to the parliament building, on the statements of the various members. Two concepts were repeated: sobriety and respect. Although it wasn’t mandatory, the group sang the national anthem as soon as the ceremony began as he officially took over. It was Al-Haq who asked to do so last week and there was unanimity to make this gesture. It was a nod to national traditions and history ignored by the previous congress, which led Chileans, in part, to overwhelmingly reject their proposal in the September plebiscite.
Before the ceremony, the group of experts met with the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, Álvaro Elizalde and Vlado Mirošević, respectively, both from the ruling party. The 24 commissioners sat mixed, with no differences by political bloc. Elizalde, a socialist militant, told them, “The republic is in your hands.”
Chile has gone through a long process of changing the constitution that was born in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), which was reformed dozens of times under democracy. This was the path offered by the political class to citizens after the outbreak of the social in October 2019. After the failure of the process last September, when Chile rejected a project that sought to change a large part of Chilean institutions, most of the political forces had. Representation in Parliament, they come up with a new political pact to try again, but in a completely different way than before: the creation of 12 constitutional rules that cannot be broken – such as the continuation of Chile as a unitary state – and the creation of the Committee of Experts that began today and who will work before the members of the Council take over Elected officials take office, in addition to a technical panel of 14 judges who act as arbitrators.
The eldest expert, former Minister of Justice of the second Pinera government, Hernán Larraín (75 years old), led the ceremony at the seat of Parliament in Santiago de Chile, downtown. As soon as the commissioners accepted this position, a discreet applause has been heard in the building since the end of the nineteenth century, a witness to the main events in Chilean political life in recent decades.
Both the ceremony and the demeanor of the twenty-four experts were marked by lack of appearance and order. It was a complete contrast to what happened on July 4, 2021, when the constitutional agreement that drafted the rejected project was confirmed. This Monday there were no accidents on the street like there were two years ago. The lack of conventions in the earlier process, later reflected in the text itself, meant that even the election of the board of directors lasted several hours. But the same thing did not happen this time. The specialists, who seem careful not to make the same mistakes, elected their president and vice president in less than 30 seconds by a show of hands. They were the two names that had already been agreed upon.
“As chair of this panel of experts, I want my hallmark to be respectful of my colleagues, co-workers, and support staff who will help us in this task,” said Veronica Onduraga upon her election. “No one should feel invisible, no one should feel overwhelmed, defeated or defeated. On the contrary, their well-being, respect for their life and dignity projects and the protection of their dignity will be our goal, ”added the centre-left lawyer, who came to the PPD Party Committee, President Ricardo Lagos Group (2000-2006). The current Minister of the Interior, Carolina Toha, also belongs to this party.
The board’s integration reflects the moderation with which this new founding process begins. The left of the formal coalition I Agree to Dignity, made up of the Communist Party and the Broad Borik Front, will not play a leading role, although their representatives have strategically placed themselves on thematic sub-committees where they are concerned with influence, such as the political system and which will be concerned with social rights.
The first task of the Committee of Experts will be to prepare an index to the draft constitution. They will work against the clock, because within 90 days their proposal must be ready to be handed over to the Constitutional Council, which will take over on June 7.
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