Constitutional Process NATIONAL

Constitutional agreement in Chile after three months of negotiating

After nearly 100 days of talks between political parties, an agreement was signed on Dec. 8. Chile will enter a new Constitutional process, with elections and a drafting body. However, this new body will be completely different from the previous one.

It took Chile’s political parties nearly a hundred days, but they finally reached an agreement on a new Constitutional process. Leaders from left to right presented the agreement to Chile’s Congress on Thursday, Dec. 8, and executed a document that summarizes the framework for the body charged with writing a new proposal.

Whereas the previous body was a “Constitutional Convention,” the new body will be a “Constitutional Council.” The council will consist of 50 constitutional councilors elected during a mandatory vote by citizens and residents in April 2023 and 24 so-called “experts” – 12 appointed by the Lower House and 12 appointed by the Senate.

These experts will be appointed this year and prepare an initial draft in January. Then, in May, the Council will begin work on the draft. The experts can also overhaul rejected articles with a two-thirds majority, while a commission of jurists oversees the process. Regular articles will need a three-fifths majority in the council to win approval.

Parity between men and women is guaranteed, while indigenous peoples will also have seats o the Council, although proportionally less compared with the Convention. After five months, the Council will finish its proposal; and, in December 2023, Chile will have another Constitutional vote, again mandatory.

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The agreement

The agreement signed Dec. 8 outlines the constitutional bases the council will work with. The bases illustrate the power more conservative forces had during the negotiations this time.

For example, the agreement states that “the Constitution shall establish that terrorism, in any of its forms, is in essence contrary to human rights,” a clear hint at the situation in southern Chile, where autonomist Mapuche movements fight forestry companies, using arson attacks as their primary weapons.

The agreement also states that “the Constitution recognizes the indigenous peoples as part of the Chilean nation, which is one and indivisible. The State shall respect and promote their rights and cultures.” This is a clear step back from the historic plurinationality that was to be guaranteed in the Constitutional Convention’s draft.

“The right to life” – often used in abortion debates – and the freedom to choose education for children – meaning private education – mentioned in the agreement are other indications that this process will lead to a far less progressive proposal than the previous one.

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