Constitutional Process OPINION

How the campaign against the new Constitution remembers the dictatorship

On the eve of the constitutional plebiscite, far-right lawmakers make plain their thoughts. As detestable as these might be, however, they’re sincere, unlike the traditional right, which is hiding its unpopular leaders. How much this sincerity will impact the result remains to be seen.

A tweet by a controversial lawmaker of far-right Republican Party has led to universal condemnation.
Gonzalo de la Carrera suggested electoral service Servel, one of the country’s most reliable institutions, commits fraud by keeping deceased voters on the electoral roll, even though this is quite normal, considering it was closed in April for this Sept. 4 vote. Later, he tweeted a meme suggesting the Apruebo (approve) movement for the new Constitution would do a door-to-door campaign on a cemetery to activate dead voters.

This strategy of sowing doubt in the electoral system resembles that of Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, which are admired in the Republican Party.

A Step too Far

But if that wasn’t insulting enough, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In recent weeks, the party has run a campaign to insinuate that detainees that were disappeared by the Pinochet dictatorship could vote and boost the Apruebo option, which is trailing the Rechazo (reject) option by 5-15 percentage points, depending on the poll.

De la Carrera’s provocations came as Chile is experiencing maximum polarization. He is one of those characters that depreciate the political environment and won’t take responsibility for their actions.
Yet de la Carrera showed sincerity. He and some of his peers showed what they think of the country, of democracy, and of course, the Constitution. They don’t adorn their narrative or hide their leaders, unlike the conventional right, which is elevating Rechazo voices of the former Concertación leftwing coalition because its own leaders are too unpopular.

Undoubtedly, this strategy has been successful so far. Some former Concertación members who are part of the Christian Democratic Party and Party for Democracy, and who columnist Daniel Matamala called subcontractors, have been in the limelight. The main faces of the Rechazo option are Christian Democratic Senators Matías Walker and Ximena Rincón.

Useful Idiots?

That is why the Republican Party’s sincerity is noteworthy. The party wants to maintain the current Constitution. It also didn’t sign the 10 commitments presented by right-wing coalition Chile Vamos, to be implemented in case Rechazo wins, and change the current Constitution. They complained about government intervention in favor of the Apruebo campaign, and its 15 lawmakers voted against a bill to make changes to the Constitution easier.

It is always better to know what a political group really thinks or proposes, rather than having to guess which rabbits it could pull out of the hat once subcontractors are no longer needed. What purpose will the Amarillos (The Yellows) group – made up of elite intellectuals – serve from Sept. 5? In Chile, yellow is traditionally associated with centrist politics.

But they won’t have any use. The currently hidden actors aiming to run in the 2024 municipal or 2025 presidential election will come out to lead this so-called second phase of the constitutional process and sharpen their profiles.

After the Plebiscite

Of course, they may regroup and complete the turn toward the right, a move several former Concertación members started long ago. Because if there is something that our political elite lacks, it is sincerity and transparency, even more so as the post-plebiscite era will be highly complex and involve many risks. Sincerity is required of Communist Party head Guillermo Tellier and the Republican Party’s most prominent member, José Antonio Kast. They must be clear about their offers and concessions in the second stage of the constitutional process.

With just a couple days until the plebiscite, the question about the impact of the far-right’s sincerity arises, considering that citizens want a new Constitution and that the Rechazo campaign united dictatorship nostalgics and enemies of Pinochet. This is not just a strange but also dangerous mix.

Although I prefer politicians who make their positions transparent, even if they are politically incorrect – like De la Carrera – it is also not healthy for democracy that some parliamentarians make light of issues that are sensitive for many citizens.

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