Written by León Lanis, Paralegal
In October 2019, Chile was hugely impacted by civil unrest by many people seeking radical social reforms in the country. These controversial protests culminated with a ground-breaking political agreement between many sectors who agreed to start the democratic process of drafting a new Constitution aiming to address all the social issues that Chileans were protesting for.
Subsequently, the country underwent a referendum where Chileans voted if they wanted a new constitution and also elected different people to draft it. Chile voted yes, and by the 4th of July 2021, the Constituent Convention started drafting the Constitutional Proposal with its elected representants.
The Convention worked for an entire year, establishing the principles and articles for a new constitution. The 4th of July, 2022 was the last session, where the Convention issued the final draft for the Chilean people to read. The elections for approving or rejecting this proposal are set for the upcoming 4th of September, 2022.
The Proposal has been full of controversies, creating many different political sectors: those who completely reject it, those who reject it but want reforms, those who approve it but want to change it and those who approve it completely.
In this post, we will guide you through some of the key aspects of the proposal.
End of the Senate
Currently, Chile has 2 chambers in Congress, the lower being the Chamber of Deputies and the upper chamber is the Senate. The Deputies are in charge of legislating and auditing government actions, while the Senate debates and approves bills. The proposal seeks to set a single chamber of deputies in order to achieve more fluid approval of bills and avoid the so-called “career politicians”.
2. Decentralisation of power
This has been one of the most long-standing demands of the Chilean people, where most of the economic power remains centralised in Santiago, the nation’s capital. The draft charter seeks to achieve decentralisation by two ways: first, with the end of the Senate, Deputies will be elected by region which should be more representative; second, the draft seeks to empower and give more autonomy for indigenous tribes of the region, predominantly the Mapuche people.
3. A welfare and ecological State
In the last two decades, Chile has been shocked by different natural and man-made disasters, spanning from contamination events to earthquakes.
The aim of the Chilean Magna Carta draft is to increase the role of the State in private affairs, shifting away from the subsidiary system Chile has had in place since 1980. This will aim to give the State enough powers to solve social and ecological issues made by the private sector.
There are a lot of open questions regarding mining concessions in the draft. The 1980s Constitution created the Concessions system, where the State may allow certain companies to extract minerals of any form in the country, while reserving a percentage to be extracted by the State. The draft does not state anything specific regarding this system, leaving for government and legislative decision making to establish a new system for concessions.
5. Plurinational State
Chile is home to over 10 distinct indigenous peoples throughout the country. For many years, these communities have sought for greater independence and respect for territorial autonomy, with some groups even resorting to violence to achieve this goal. The Convention resorted to giving autonomy to indigenous groups, by accepting a degree of independence from the Chilean Judicial System. With this being said, at the moment there’s no clarity as to which matters indigenous groups can maintain independent from the traditional justice system.
6. Water rights
This matter has brought more questions than answers. The 1980s Constitution is the only one in the world that privatises waters, which has been one of the key points of the October revolution of 2019. The draft just says that water rights are unsellable, but the Convention was not clear enough on what this will mean in practice.
7. Gender parity
This was one of the key points of the people’s demands, and to address it the draft Constitution states that there should be at least 50% women in all public and semi-public positions.
In the following months, the Chilean people will continue to study and debate the Proposal, until finally, on the 4th of September, their votes will decide if the draft will become the new Constitution for Chile. Make sure you follow HGG for ongoing neutral coverage of the leadup to this historic vote.