Constitutional Process NATIONAL

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

The Republican Party led by José Kast won the Constitutional Council elections by a large margin. It took 23 of 51 seats, with the remaining seats divided between government and opposition parties and one indigenous representative. Now that the drafting body has been selected, what is next on Chile’s path to a possible new constitution?

On May 7, Chileans elected 51 members to the Constitutional Council, the body that will write the final draft of the country’s new proposed constitution.

With 23 seats, the Republican Party, led by former presidential candidate José Kast, emerged as the election’s clear victor. The remaining 27 seats are divided between the government coalition Unidad para Chile (16 seats) and the opposition parties within the Chile Seguro coalition (11 seats) – with latter expected to join the Republican Party in a supermajority. One additional seat was won by an indigenous candidate, bringing the total number of representatives to 51.

In stark contrast to last year’s primarily left-wing convention, this time it is Chile’s conservative right that has the upper hand in the drafting process. With a 3/5 majority (23 republican seats, and 11 seats for the conservative-right coalition Chile Seguro), ‘the right’ will even be able to veto amendments.

The Republican victory was a bitter pill to swallow for Chile’s “pro-new constitution” camp. Elisa Loncón, the initial president of last year’s Constitutional Convention, criticized the outcome, saying that “a party that never wanted to change the constitution has won.”

Republican representative Luis Silva, speaking on his party’s victory, did not exactly disagree: he told La Tercera that “the Republicans have never wanted a new Constitution.” Instead, necessary changes could have been made in Congress, he added.

Also read: 

Kast about election victory: “Chile has defeated a failed government”

The road ahead

The Constitutional Council starts work on June 6. Until then, it is up to the “Expert Commission” to finish its preliminary draft, based on a list of “minimal demands” by the governing coalition. The Expert Commission has 24 members who were elected by Congress: 12 by the Senate and 12 by the Lower House.

The goal of the preliminary draft is to ensure broader public participation further down the road, said Senate President Álvaro Elizalde upon the Commission’s inauguration.

On June 7, the draft moves on to the Constitutional Council; and, from then until November 6, the council will be tasked with completing a constitution that appeals to a majority of the Chilean people.

Articles in the new constitution will have to be approved with a 3/5 majority. With 23 Republican members and 11 Chile Seguro members, Chile’s conservative right-wing parties have this majority, meaning they can approve or reject proposals on their own.

Even so, the drafting body will have to respect the list of 12 “‘institutional bases.” This is a list with set principles, such as the fact that Chile is a unitary state, that it constitutionally recognizes indigenous peoples, and that it is a democratic state under the rule of law.

In order to ensure these 12 principles are guaranteed, a “Technical Admissibility Committee” will oversee the drafting process. This committee is composed of 14 jurists who were (1) proposed by the Chamber of Deputies, and (2) approved by a 4/7 majority in the Senate. Its role will be to determine whether or not proposed articles contravene the institutional bases.

After the Constitutional Council finishes its final draft, the draft will be sent back to the Expert Commission for comment. Their comments must be approved by 3/5 of the council, or rejected by 2/3.

The final proposed new constitution will be submitted to an “exit plebiscite” on December 17. Just like last year’s, voting will be mandatory. The sole question will be: “Are you ‘For’ or ‘Against’ the text of the New Constitution?”

If a majority votes in favor of the new constitution, it will become the new law of the land and published in the government’s Diario Oficial within 10 days after its promulgation.

More about the constitutional process: 

How might the new constitution address gender equality and sexual freedom?

What could Chile’s indigenous communities gain on Sunday?

How will the new constitution address the environment?

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