Chilean political parties agree to draft a new constitution | Politics News

The deal comes three months after voters rejected a replacement for the current Pinochet-era Magna Carta.

Fourteen Chilean political parties – including representatives from left and right – have agreed to start work on a new constitution, in the latest attempt to replace a national charter that dates back to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

In a speech from the capital of Santiago on Tuesday, President Gabriel Boric applauded the decision, saying: “We have taken a necessary and, I hope, decisive step to move forward in a new social pact for better democracy, more freedoms, more social rights. Chile cannot continue to wait.

He also challenged Chile’s Congress to approve the deal, which was reached on Monday evening. At least 29 senators and 89 lawmakers – four-sevenths of Congress – must vote in favor for the deal to pass.

“I’m sure that in Congress, the sense of responsibility, dedication and generosity will prevail to honor democracy – to be able to give us a legitimate new constitution,” Boric said.

Chile’s current constitution was drafted in 1980, nearly six years after Pinochet’s rule. The charter expanded the powers of the right-wing dictator, allowing the executive branch to suspend civil liberties, restrict a free press and more.

Although the constitution has been reformed over the years to bring it more in line with democratic standards, it has long been criticized for contributing to inequality in Chile.

The constitution emphasizes private property rights – including more natural resources such as water — by failing to offer guarantees of social protection. Likewise, it makes no mention of the indigenous peoples, who represent 13% of the Chilean population.

In 2019, a student protest over transport costs turned into a national protest movement against social inequalities. One of the main demands was to revise the Chilean constitution.

The protests have left more than 30 people dead and thousands injured in what is considered the worst violence in Chile since the Pinochet era.

The protests died down when the Chilean government agreed to hold a referendum on whether to overhaul the constitution, and Chileans voted massively in favor of the proposal in October 2020.

An elected body of 154 drafted a sweeping new charter, creating 388 articles governing everything from universal health care to minority rights to gender parity.

But the left-wing bill failed to pass in a vote last September, with more than 60% of Chileans reject the proposed charter.

Boric, a left-wing politician elected youngest president of Chile in December last year, supported the continued efforts to revise the country’s constitution.

Monday’s agreement calls for Congress to appoint 24 experts who will create the framework for a new constitutional commission. The commission will include 50 people, plus an undetermined number of indigenous representatives, all elected in a vote proposed for April 2023.

The 14 political parties were initially divided over how many commissioners to choose and whether they should be elected or appointed.

Monday’s agreement also calls for a new charter based on a dozen constitutional principles previously determined by political parties, including that Chile has a unitary but decentralized government with separate and independent executive, judicial and legislative powers.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric addresses the nation after a constitutional agreement is reached.
In a televised statement, Chilean President Gabriel Boric called on Congress to approve Monday’s deal [Chilean presidency handout/Reuters]

Additionally, it states that Chile’s 11 indigenous peoples will be recognized as part of any new constitution, along with crucial rights, including the right to life and property.

The 14 political parties also agreed on the principle that the Chilean military should always be subordinate to the civilian government.

Under Monday’s proposal, 14 judges from each side will defend these fundamental rights.

If Congress passes the deal, Chile will have five months to draft a new charter, before a national vote proposed for the end of next year.

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