Lower House approves Constitutional Accusation against Piñera

After a demolishing session in the Chilean Lower House, the Constitutional Accusation against President Piñera was approved with a simple majority. Exactly 78 representatives voted in favor of impeaching Piñera, moving the proceedings to the Senate where a two-thirds majority is needed. The session was marked by a 15-hour filibuster by Rep. Jaime Naranjo.

Chilean politics are anything but dull and boring. The 22-hour session in Chile’s Lower House on Monday, in which representatives ultimately voted to impeach President Sebastián Piñera, illustrated the theater politics can be. A long build-up, plot twists, heroes and villains, and a happy ending, at least for the Chilean opposition. They voted in favor of impeaching Piñera for his role in matters that came to light the Pandora Papers. The proceedings now move to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed to indict – a high hurdle that makes it unlikely this Constitutional Accusation will succeed.

The session in the Lower House was a thriller indeed. To ensure the 78 votes, Socialist Party Rep. Jaime Naranjo started reading the entire 1,300-page accusation against Piñera, which gained the opposition enough time (14 hours and 56 minutes to be exact) to get Rep. Giorgio Jackson back into the House, after his preventive quarantine expired at midnight. Jackson had been in quarantine after being in contact with the coronavirus-infected presidential candidate Gabriel Boric.

Also read:

Impeachment Piñera starts with 13 hour-long filibuster

Drama also enveloped other representatives. Some hours into Naranjo’s speech, the opposition started counting heads and realized Christian Democrat Rep. Jorge Sabag was missing. Sabag was in the southern city of Chillán, awaiting a negative PCR-result, too. Trying to delay his arrival, officials of regional health authority Seremi decided to wait for him at the entrance of Congress. However, when his car arrived in front of the Congressional building, another representative stepped out, bursting out laughing and claiming Sabag had already entered through a backdoor entrance.

With memes about Naranjo, Jackson, and Sabag flooding social media, Chilean national television turned its eye to the historic session, too. A special Naranjo-clock appeared on the screen like a NYE-countdown, and the journey of Jackson after midnight from Santiago to Valparaíso was broadcasted live on television. Long after midnight, Naranjo finished his speech and vigorously hugged Jackson, a clear signal of unity the opposition desperately seeks weeks before a very polarized election.

The defense of President Piñera spoke after Naranjo’s filibuster, as a last line of defense before President Piñera got butchered by the Lower House. It wasn’t enough. After 22 hours, 78 votes were enough to send the matter on to the Senate to decide Piñera’s political fate. In the meantime, Piñera, the first president in Chilean history to get hit with two Constitutional Accusations, won’t be allowed to leave the country.

This telenovela is far from over. Stay tuned.

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