NATIONAL Social Crisis

Constituent Assembly: Empowering Citizens and Pushing Reforms

SANTIAGO – Slowly but steadily, Chileans are organizing to present solutions to the political crisis that has boiled over in recent weeks. The ideas of a constituent assembly and underlying citizen lobbies (cabildos) have blossomed in numerous communities, while the government itself discusses constitutional reforms and increased citizen participation. Where is the Chilean political system headed?

Community gatherings are increasingly fostering a unified voice in response to Chile’s political crisis. In particular, the constituent assembly as a tool for reform is increasingly popular in recent days. In fact, 87% of Chileans agree that a new Constitution is now the primary need, according to a Cadem survey.

Santiaguinos organized the first Constituent Assembly simulation on Nov. 3 in Parque Borja. The event was meant to familiarize the people with the process, in which citizen participation is key to producing real change.

The coordinator of Universidad de Chile Por la Asamblea Constituyente, Luis Felipe Manques, told BioBioChile that they “want to show that citizens can discuss what kind of Constitution they want, and for that, what we need is a government … that gives them the space to have a real Constituent Assembly.”

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Governmental Steps

The government has also taken careful steps towards more citizen participation.  After Congress formally initiated a constituent process, paving the way for politically defining discussions among citizens, the parliament is now opening debate about modifying the Constitution’s Chapter 15, which would allow citizen participation in a constituent process. Although there is still a long way until all voices align, many parliamentarians support the process. 

As reported by BioBioChile, socialist Diputado Marcelo Schilling went as far as to suggest early presidential elections as a viable way to solve the political crisis today.

These potential changes to the Constitution will continue to undergo revisions this week.

President Sebastián Piñera has also delegated to Social and Family Development minister Sebastián Sichel the job of initiating “great citizen dialogues,” a citizen consultancy process, very similar to local cabildos, but expected to reach a nationwide audience. The project promises not to overlook any topic or issue.

With these actions, more and more organizations and local groups are proving their worth and will to walk towards a better future for the country, by fostering citizen participation as a valuable tool in pursuing and achieving the public’s goals.

History Repeats Itself in Chile

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