Constitutional Process NATIONAL

How María Elisa Quinteros became the new president of the Convention

SANTIAGO – The Constitutional Convention elected its new board of directors after two days of deliberations. María Elisa Quinteros is the new president and Gaspar Domínguez is the new vice president. Meanwhile, the plebiscite for the new Constitution is at least nine months away.

The election for the Constitutional Convention’s new board of directors has finally come to an end. The lengthy process began Jan. 4 and terminated yesterday, Jan. 5, after nine rounds of voting. In the end, María Elisa Quinteros and Gaspar Domínguez were elected president and vice president, respectively, to preside over the institution that will issue Chile’s new magna carta later this year.

The elections were necessary because the institution requires a new board of directors every six months. The newly-elected group is expected to finalize the drafting of the new Constitution, after which it will be presented in a referendum to the people in the second half of the year.

The election of Quinteros, an odontologist, is quite surprising given the many constituents who favored candidates such as Diaguita Eric Chinga, scientist Cristina Dorador, and journalist Patricia Politzer. However, the lengthy process proved all too much for Dorador who bowed out of the leadership race at the end of the first day of voting.

Read this interview CT recently did with the new vice-president of the Convention

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First Day Proceedings

Former president and vice president of the institution, Elisa Loncón and Jaime Bassa, opened the proceedings of their last session at 9:40 a.m., Jan. 4. Both gave speeches thanking their colleagues and the nation for their time, patience, and commitment to the work of the Convention.

Bassa also criticized the Piñera administration. “I think we’re all a little surprised that these six months have passed in a good way. The work, the relationship with the government was trying, difficult. It was getting better over time, but we had awkward moments.”

Convention members Tiare Aguilera and Isabel Godoy also thanked the assembly for recognizing and actively including native peoples in the drafting of the new Constitution. Others, including deputy vice presidents Natalia Henríquez and Lorena Céspedes were also among those who addressed the assembly before the first round of voting began shortly after 11:33 a.m.

Regulations of the Convention call for a “papal” voting system, in which members are called alphabetically to cast their vote. Voting for the first round ended just after midday with the results announced at 12:44 p.m. by Secretary John Smok:

  • Ramona Reyes (34), 
  • Bárbara Rebolledo (32), 
  • Eric Chinga (29),
  • Cristina Dorador (22), 
  • Patricia Politzer (13), 
  • Bravo (11), 
  • Eduardo Castillo (7), 
  • Paulina Veloso (1), 
  • Bárbara Sepúlveda (1), 
  • Gioconda Navarrete (1), and 
  • Null votes (2).

The assembly then took a break and resumed shortly before 1:30 p.m. with the second round. With all ballots cast in just half an hour, Smok announces the results shortly after 2:30 p.m. Bravo, Sepúlveda, and Veloso receive no votes narrowing the number of candidates to six from the previous round:

  • Reyes (54), 
  • Chinga (34), 
  • Rebolledo (33), 
  • Dorador (30), 
  • Castillo (1), 
  • Navarrete (1), and
  • Null votes (1).

Following a lunch break the third round took place, this time seeing Reyes losing all but three supporting votes:

  1. Dorador (46),
  2. Chinga (33), 
  3. Rebolledo (31),
  4.  Politzer (29), 
  5. Castillo (5), 
  6. Reyes (3), 
  7. Patricio Fernández (3), 
  8. Angélica Tepper (1), 
  9. Martín Arrau (1), and
  10. Null votes (2).

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., almost eight hours into the day for members of the Constitutional Convention, voting commenced for a fourth time. Cristina Dorador emerged as the winner but failed to gain the 78 votes needed to secure the role as president:

  1. Dorador (60), 
  2. Politzer (35), 
  3. Chinga (22), 
  4. Fernández (22), 
  5. Rebolledo (5), 
  6. Felipe Mena (4), 
  7. Arrau (2), 
  8. Adriana Cancino (1), 
  9. Patricia Labra (1), 
  10. Ruth Hurtado (1), and 
  11. Roberto Celedón (1).

The session was then suspended shortly after 6:30 p.m. and did not resume until 8 p.m. With yet another vote, Dorador was expected to gain the 18 votes she needed to preside over the Convention. However, this round she added only 4:

  1. Dorador (64)
  2. Fernández (61), 
  3. Chinga (20), 
  4. Arrau (4), 
  5. Hurtado (1), 
  6. Teresa Marinovic (1), and 
  7. Politzer (1).

After the sixth round was completed shortly before 10:30 p.m., Dorador was just six votes away from reaching the majority needed:

  1. Dorador (72) 
  2. Fernández (46), 
  3. Chinga (18), 
  4. Domínguez (14), 
  5. Marinovic (2), and
  6. Katherine Montealegre (2).

Then, 16 hours after the session began, no candidate had received a majority of 78 votes following the results of both seventh and eighth rounds. Dorador bowed out of the competition citing that her candidacy had not “generated consensus.” At 4:14 a.m., the 19-hour long session as suspended until 3 p.m. on Jan. 5. 

Results of the seventh round: 

  1. Dorador (64), 
  2. Benito Baranda (36), 
  3. Chinga (18),
  4.  Rocío Cantuarias (21), 
  5. Angélica Tepper (14), and 
  6. Fernández (1).

Round eight results: 

  1. Dorador (51), 
  2. Baranda (37), 
  3. Navarrete (33), 
  4. Chinga (17) and 
  5. Bravo (12).

“Without predetermined decisions”

On the second day of elections, outgoing president Loncón opened the session at 3:30 p.m. noting that “agreements are taken in this space.”

Then, just six minutes after the Wednesday session began, a majority was finally achieved, and Quinteros, had received a single vote in the preceding rounds, suddenly found herself to be the new president of the Constitutional Convention:

  1. Quinteros (78), 
  2. Mena (35), 
  3. Beatriz Sánchez (15), 
  4. Roberto Celedón (14), and 
  5. Agustín Squella (11).

National Renewal constituent, Luciano Silva, was the powerbroker in the final round, casting the 78th vote needed for Quinteros to preside over the new board of directors. Many of those who supported Dorador voted for Quinteros in the ninth round given that the scientist had renounced her candidacy just a few hours earlier.

Quinteros gave her first words as president of the Convention just hours before the vote for vice president would begin. The new president thanked the outgoing board of directors and those who voted for her before adding. “I represent the feeling of many people who are unknown, who suddenly seem to occupy these positions of political power, but with the desire to build a society that is more pluralistic.”

Vice President Election

The election of Bassa’s successor was smooth sailing, taking just one vote:

  1. Domínguez (112), 
  2. Mena (35), 
  3. Amaya Alvez (3), 
  4. Félix Galleguillos (1), and 
  5. Ericka Portilla (1).

Bassa cheered the two-date vote, stating that the “lengthy and open” democratic process was unfamiliar to Chile in the 20th century. Bassa added, “together we want to reach a good place, where we value deliberation as a space for construction.”


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