Constitutional Process NATIONAL POLITICS

Five ‘axes’ of Chile’s new Constitution, according to the government

Parties aligned with the Boric administration have succeeded in reaching an agreement about a new proposed Constitution. All 10 parties have signed off on the proposal. The eight-page document sets out five “axes” for the new Constitution. 

The 10 parties aligned with the Boric administration have reached consensus on a proposal for a new Constitution. In early February 2023,  they presented an eight-page document containing the coalition’s essential demands. The demands are intended to guide the popularly-elected 50-member constitutional council and Congressionally-appointed “experts” when they start drafting a new Constitution in March 2023.

The document, titled “Basis of the pro-government constitutional proposal,” summarizes the coalition’s minimum requirements for the new draft in general ideas and legal principles. It divides the new proposed Constitution into five “pillars,” or axes, in favor of the social and democratic rule of law, democratic institutionality, sustainable economic development, “gender equality,” and a Constitution that fights corruption.

The document begins with the parties looking back at the lost plebiscite in 2022: “The past constituent process, which culminated in the plebiscite of September 4, left us important lessons that we must weigh and assume with humility and self-criticism.” It then sets out the five main axes for the future draft.

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  1. “Social and Democratic Rule of Law”

The coalition stresses that solidarity will be an important pillar.  Chile will have to be a “social state,” one that must “progressively achieve higher levels of welfare, [and] social and environmental justice.” To that end, the State has the task to “reduce and correct inequalities.” Interdependence will be key, but individual autonomy will also be important: “The role of the State is active, directive or guiding in the provision of rights,” but it does not exclude “the participation of private parties.”

The coalition also calls for “strengthening” “the rule of law,” aiming for “equality before the law, access to justice, and the independence of the judiciary.” To guarantee this, fundamental freedoms – social rights, civil rights, and political rights – based on international declarations and covenants, must be anchored in the new draft. In addition, the document calls for decentralization to encourage democratic participation “at all levels of government and administration.”

  1. “Democratic institutionality, system of government and political stability”

The authors agree that the new Constitution must also guarantee “the participation of all people in every sphere of social life.” Therefore, parity must be ensured in all government bodies. The balance of powers must be guaranteed as well, and, if it is up to the coalition, the legislative and scrutinizing role of Congress must be strengthened.

To be able to respond “quickly” to “social changes,” the coalition also advocates eliminating laws that require a supermajority quorum. The coalition also proposes decentralization at all levels, thereby “giving greater powers of government and administration to the territorial entities.” As for indigenous peoples, the document states that they should be “constitutionally recognized,” and that their rights should be enshrined within the framework of the internationally binding Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. An effort will also be made to establish an Indigenous Statute “that develops their specific guarantees.”

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  1. “Sustainable economic development”

The coalitino argues that, in addition to promoting sustainable development, the government should also take “an active, directive or guiding role” in addressing the climate and ecological crises. The government must “ensure the recovery and care of nature, its resources and biodiversity,” and therefore it must find a balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

The right to water must also be “enshrined” within the Constitution: it has to be a “national good of public use, that belongs to the society as a whole.”

In mining matters, the State has “the absolute, exclusive, inalienable and imprescriptible right to all mines.” Exploitation of mines must always be with the public interest in mind; the environment and cultural protection must also be considered.

Lastly, taxes need to have a “leveling function.” They need to “allow economic redistribution and serve the general interest.” To that end, the parties suggest a progressive tax system, where each person and each company contributes “according to their capabilities.”

  1. “Gender equality”

The coalition says that a new Constitution “must lay the foundations for an inclusive society that eradicates gender discrimination and structural inequality,” and that “the State must promote a society in which women and men participate in equal treatment and opportunities.” To that end, a new constitutional draft will have to include explicit rights for both women and for people with “different sexualities.” The document mentions “sexual and reproductive rights” for everyone, recognizes the value of “different types of families,” and stresses that the representation of women in all spaces is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Chile’s collegial bodies will therefore have to make sure that their composition exists of at least 50 percent women.

  1. “An anti-abuse and anti-corruption constitution”

In the fifth axis, the parties suggest that the draft should “enshrine the principles of probity, accountability and transparency as structuring elements of the organs of the State, at all levels.” 

The document adds that persons that have been convicted for certain crimes should be prevented from holding public office. These include conviction for sexual abuse, drug trafficking, and acts of corruption such as money laundering, bribery, tax fraud.

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