Chile’s Lower House has begun the constitutional accusation proceedings against President Sebastian Piñera, precipitated by the revelations in the Pandora Papers. The discussions have been dominated by controversy over the opposition attempting to use the “Lazarus law” to extend the vote. These proceedings signal an ignominious end to a turbulent and unpopular second term in office for Piñera.
On Monday, Nov. 8, Chile’s Lower House of Congress began its second impeachment proceedings against President Sebastian Piñera, with Representative Jaime Naranjo reading the entire constitutional accusation against Piñera. The constitutional accusation was filed by 16 representatives of the opposition party at the beginning of October in response to Piñera being linked to the Pandora Papers. Piñera is the first Chilean president to be constitutionally accused multiple times in a single term.
Due to circumstances relating to COVID-19 and quarantines, the opposition is using the “Lazarus law” to ensure it has the 78 votes needed to send the constitutional accusation on to the Senate. Gabriel Boric, presidential candidate for the Apruebo Dignidad coalition, had to quarantine after testing positive for COVID on Nov .3.One of his key supporters, Representative Giorgio Jackson, and other representatives, had to enter preventive quarantine, due to having close contact with Boric, but that obligatory quarantine ends Tuesday, Nov. 9.
As a result, the opposition representatives invoked the “Lazarus law,” which is a means of extending the vote until Tuesday using a filibuster, thereby enabling Jackson to give the opposition the votes needed to approve the constitutional accusation. Socialist Party member Jaime Naranjo is therefore attempting to delay the vote until Tuesday by reading the entire 1,300 page accusation against Piñera.
This has provoked tension on the chamber floor, with its president, Diego Paulsen, responding to Naranjo’s accusations that there is a lack of a quorum by stating that the session only requires a quorum of one third of the sitting representatives (155) to function. He stated that Naranjo and the opposition should “stop the show.” The vote count is tight, with the opposition potentially having to rely on representatives who ordinarily side with the Piñera administration if the filibuster does not work.
Even before the day’s proceedings began, Representative Gabriel Silber (DC) said he hoped that the Lazarus law would not be used because it would not go down well with the public.
In addition, Senator Antonio Coloma alleged that Jackson’s quarantine does not end until Tuesday night at 8 p.m. because Jackson acknowledged he was with Boric last Tuesday.
In response to Naranjo’s attempt to force a pause to proceedings by surreptitiously asking his peers to leave the room, the ruling party announced its intent to take him before the Ethics Commission.
Jackson, on the other hand, tweeted his support for Naranjo, stating that “The attempt to block the right to vote of those who, being in favor of the prosecution (against Piñera), have a health impediment to exercise it, is what seems most regrettable to me.”
There is another issue facing the impeachment: on Friday, Nov. 5, the Lower House’s review committee rejected the constitutional accusation against Sebastián Piñera, sending a negative report to the house. Two representatives voted in favor, two voted against, and one abstained. The report is not legally binding, and the house chose to ignore it.
The opposition needs 78 votes, a simple majority, to send the constitutional accusation on to the Senate. If there are 78 votes in favor, three representatives will “formalize” the vote and the accusation will proceed to the Senate where the senators will act as the jury to decide Piñera’s fate. If there is a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the accusation in the Senate, Piñera will be removed from office immediately.
The reason for the impeachment is because of serious revelations from the Pandora Papers, which exposed Piñera’s offshore activities during his first term. The Pandora Papers revealed that his family sold a mining project to a close friend, with the third payment being conditional upon the area surrounding the project not being a protected zone. The Piñera administration quickly abandoned the previous administration’s protections, allowing the project to advance.
Harry McKenna is a postgraduate student studying American History at the University of Sheffield. His interests include politics, foreign affairs, and history and he is seeking to cover international politics. He is currently interning at Chile Today.