Constitutional Process NATIONAL POLITICS

Chilean Human Rights Commission: Preliminary draft ‘preserves the essence of the 1980 Constitution’

The Expert Commission’s preliminary draft of Chile’s proposed new constitution faces opposition from the Chilean Human Rights Commission. The commission says the draft shows little progress over the existing constitution. It concludes that the draft represents “a serious setback in Human Rights for our country.”

The Chilean Human Rights Commission published a two-page declaration in which it opposes the preliminary draft of the new constitution. The NGO, dedicated to the defense of human rights in Chile, writes that the draft delivered by the Expert Commission “would mean significant setbacks in Human Rights” for Chile.

According to the commission, an essential flaw in the document is that it only pays lip service to fundamental rights but does not include any “substantive or essential content” to advance them. The commission argues that the draft handed over to the Constitutional Council on June  7, “preserves the essence of the 1980 Constitution, imposed by the dictatorship.” 

The commission also criticizes the fact that the role of the government remains secondary: by using the word “and” instead of “or” when referring to the coexistence of the public and private sector, the draft establishes the state as a “competitor among private entities.”

The Commission also does not like that the draft upholds “the primacy of the freedom of education … over the right to receive education.”  

The 5 percent threshold for political parties to have representation in Congress, implemented to counter fragmentation within Chile’s parliament, is also questioned by the NGO, which argues that such a barrier would not only “violate the freedom of association, expression, thought, conscience and political rights of the people,” but would also increase the distance between politicians and citizens, would promote “the development of technocrats and bureaucrats,” and would create a sense of illegitimacy among the population.

In that sense, the commission writes, the constitutional draft in its current form would not “guarantee social peace or the respect for human rights as the basis for the full realization of human dignity, as desired by the vast majority of citizens.”  Therefore, this new constitution “does not provide an answer to the serious institutional and social problems.”

Given that the final drafting body, the Constitutional Council, primarily consists of right-wing representatives, it is the commission’s expectation that the final draft will prove “even more injurious” to human rights.

Drafting and voting procedure

The Expert Commission (24 members elected by Congress) was tasked with writing the preliminary draft of the new constitution. Their draft was passed on to the Constitutional Council (51 popularly-elected members). The council started its work on June 8 and has 40 days to revise the Expert Commission’s draft. The revised document will then go back to the Expert Commission for final review. Chileans will then vote to approve or reject the final draft on Dec. 17, 2023.

More about the constitutional process:

Next steps on Chile’s path to a possible new constitution

Luis Silva: The councilor who is likely to lead the Constitution drafting process

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