Constitutional Process POLITICS

Chilean Coalition in Crisis Over Constitutional Process

SANTIAGO – The governing political coalition Chile Vamos now has an internal dispute over a vote on a quorum for women and reserved seats for indigenous peoples in the constitutional process. The Unión Demócrata Independiente accuses Evópoli and Renovación Nacional of not honoring agreements. For the government, the crisis means a new episode of unrest just when unity is so desperately needed.

After the Chilean Congress on Dec. 19 approved laws for a quorum for women and reserved seats for indigenous people in the constitutional process ­(if Chileans vote in favor of a new Constitution in April 2020), the governing bloc Chile Vamos suffered a deep crisis. According to the Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI or “Independent Democratic Union” in English), agreements were not honored by the other parties; and, after the approval of the laws, UDI president Jacqueline van Rysselberghe said, “we are the only right-wing party in Chile.”

The dispute is the culmination of a week of political drama. On Dec. 18, the law that would allow for a constitutional reform passed Congress, but parts about a female quorum or reserved seats for indigenous peoples were rejected. Several female members of Congress from Renovación Nacional (RN or “National Renewal” in English) supported re-entering the two parts as separate laws, which were approved by Congress on Dec. 19.

According to several politicians in UDI, by voting in favor of these laws, the RN and Evópoli politicians broke agreements made as part of the Chile Vamos coalition. In defense, Mario Desbordes, president of RN, said that the coalition could not always act as UDI wanted. Although both Desbordes and van Rysselberghe have indicated that to them the conflict is not beyond repair, the two biggest political parties in the Chilean government have decided to talk with their followers first to determine their next steps.

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Not the First Political Crisis

If Chile Vamos splinters, it won’t be the first coalition to do so since the beginning of the uprising in October. Frente Amplio (FA or “Broad Front” in English), the political front that forms part of the left-wing opposition, has seen several political parties leave in the last two months.

In total, FA has lost four parliamentarians, three from the Partido Humanista (“Humanist Party” in English) and one from the Partido Ecologista Verde (“Green Ecologist Party,” in English), who left after parliamentarians from the Revolución Democrática (“Democratic Revolution” in English), led by Giorgio Jackson, voted in favor of the Anti-Looting Law, a law that was feared to increase oppression by police forces. Earlier, the Partido Igualdad (“Equality Party” in English) and the Movimiento Democrático Popular (“People’s Democratic Movement” in English) left the political front.

One of the biggest parties in the FA, Convergencia Social (“Social Convergence” in English), led by parliamentarian Gabriel Boric, saw nearly 200 members, among them Valparaíso Mayor Jorge Sharp, leave the party after Boric signed the Agreement for Peace in November without consulting his members.

For both sides of the political spectrum, the crisis has made clear that unity in politics and stability on the streets are very much intertwined. With a political crisis that could deepen in the months until the referendum in April, the need for leadership, cooperation, and consensus is more urgent than ever.

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