The conservative vision for Chile’s future has been proposed by the country’s radical right wing through a draft constitution, which is viewed by some as a regressive move for the nation.
The new draft, which could replace the current Pinochet-era charter, was drawn up by a council led by the far-right Republican party and could threaten access to abortion, curb the right to collective strike action, and would reduce the number of deputies elected to Chile’s congress.
On Tuesday, the new draft was presented to President Gabriel Boric, who is known for his left-wing views, at a ceremony in Santiago. He officially announced a plebiscite for December 17th, in which all Chileans are required to vote on the proposal.
The recent development marked another turn in a four-year period of political turmoil. In 2019, widespread inequality and dissatisfaction with the government led to several months of protests. In an attempt to calm the situation, political leaders came to an agreement to begin the process of replacing the nation’s 1980 constitution, which had failed to gain support despite numerous revisions.
The initial version of the constitution, hailed as the most advanced in the world, was widely rejected in a plebiscite held in September 2022. Chileans will now have the opportunity to vote for an alternative that is on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
The initial version of the draft was vastly different from the current one. The first draft included delegates from the 10 Indigenous groups of the country dressed in their traditional attire. However, in the current draft, Boric was accompanied by Beatriz Hevia, the president of the constitutional council who speaks German. Hevia referred to the upcoming vote as the day when the dreams of “genuine Chileans” would come true.
Similar to the document from the Pinochet era that it aims to supplant, the fresh proposal does not acknowledge the existence of Indigenous Chileans, even though they make up almost 13% of the total population.
Boric stated that if the document is approved, his administration will prioritize its execution. However, if it is declined, they will concentrate on “continuing to serve and govern for the betterment of the citizens.”
The initial version received negative feedback for being too long, potentially making it one of the lengthiest constitutions globally. It also contained a comprehensive array of rights, ranging from universal healthcare and education to safeguarding culinary traditions and animal well-being.
The new version of the draft contains a contentious statement asserting that “the law safeguards the existence of the unborn”. This slight modification from the existing constitution has raised concerns that it could result in a complete ban on abortion in the South American nation. Currently, abortion is permitted in cases of rape, danger to the mother’s life, and non-viability of the fetus.
Following the unsuccessful initial attempt, Chile’s political parties created a closely regulated second procedure that required mandatory voting at every stage. Additionally, experts selected by congress would draft a preliminary proposal for elected delegates to revise.
During the intense media attention on public safety prior to the election, the extremely conservative Republican party won by a large margin in the May elections and secured over one-third of the positions in the reduced constitutional council.