Constitutional Process NATIONAL POLITICS

On the Path to the Constitutional Convention: Chapter 4

The elections for the Constitutional Convention are fast approaching. Chileans will go to the polls Apr. 11 to choose the 155 representatives who will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for the country. Chile Today has talked to some of the candidates to discuss the inspirations for their candidacies.

 The Piñera administration presented a bill to allow the elections to be held over two days on Apr. 11 and 12 to make the process easier amid the pandemic, but on Mar. 5 the lower chamber rejected it. The clock is ticking, and the bill now moves to a mixed congressional commission for review.

Santiago’s voting District 9 is known as a fortress for the center-left, and it encompasses the northwestern section of Chile’s capital. Forty-six candidates are vying for one of the seven seats for the constitutional convention.

Galit Agosin, candidate for district 9.

Galit Agosin, independent candidate for District 9: Cerro Navia, Conchalí, Huechuraba, Renca, Independencia, Lo Prado, Quinta Normal, and Recoleta

At 23, Agosin is among the youngest candidates for the Constitutional Convention. She’s finishing her degree in Law at Universidad de Chile and has previously served as vice-president and political director of the Jewish Students and Youth Federation. Agosin is also currently involved in a feminist organization.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What inspired you to become a candidate? Your dad is also running but representing a different electoral district and supported by center-right party Evópoli.
A: Yes, my dad stands on the opposite side of the road, as I say. My motivation in fact goes beyond my dad’s candidacy, I discussed it with my family … and after seeing the referendum as a member of a polling station as well as actively taking part in the protests in 2019, I said, “Why not?” I think I have the convictions, abilities, I’m young and very energetic, which is why I think I can bring a lot to the table. I’ve gone on this adventure called “becoming a candidate for the constitutional convention” in a district where there are another 46 contenders, so, ultimately, I think my motivation stems from the demonstrations and the social demands, and from my maternal family’s political background. They have always talked about politics, my grandad was a fervent human rights activist under the dictatorship, my grandaunt was tortured and exiled and my granduncle was murdered during the coup d’état, so I also have a commitment to human rights and the public sphere.

Q: According to statistics from the electoral service, the average age of candidates is around 40. How do you feel about the low number of candidates under 30?
A: I think that this has to do with younger people being discriminated against in the public political sphere, so I also know of many young people who tried to become candidates, but they couldn’t because they weren’t supported by political parties or because they couldn’t gather enough signatures. I think we (young people) do want to take part and it’s shown by candidacies like mine, and it’s also proven by the social uprising, which started because of us; we were the ones who ignited this movement, which ultimately brought us to the constitutional convention, so, it isn’t about whether we want to participate or not, but because we haven’t been given the spaces and discrimination.

Q: Who are you looking to represent with your candidacy?
A: I always say that during the social uprising one of the chants was this song by Los Prisioneros, El Baile de los que Sobran (the dance of those [who are] left out) and that’s who I’m representing: the youth who have been excluded from the public sphere; the elderly who have been abandoned by the system with bad pensions; women, a group that has been neglected historically and we haven’t been given the importance that we deserve in the constitution; the disabled; sexual minorities. I solely want to represent those who haven’t felt represented to this day. Like I said, those who are left out.

Q: You actively took part in the 2019 protests; do you think Chile has changed since? And how?
A: There have been many changes due to the demonstrations. Firstly, people have started discussing politics again; it had been a long time since Chileans talked about politics or current affairs at the dining table, and thanks to the protests, people today are talking about the convention, the constituents. Evidently, there is still a lot of information missing, but at least citizens are talking, and that’s one of the big improvements achieved by the marches. Secondly, social conflicts that had somehow been swept under the rug have been highlighted; for instance, calling Chile Latin America’s jaguar. With this it was proven that not everything in the garden was rosy, that there were a lot of demands and the fight wasn’t over. Thirty or forty years ago people fought for freedom. Today we are fighting for dignity, and people are very aware of that.

Q: What do you think should be the state’s role in this new constitution?
A: Today, the state is a subsidiary one, although it doesn’t explicitly say that in the current constitution, but in practical terms and the interpretation by the Constitutional Tribunal establishes that we have a subsidiary model. And what does this mean? It means that our rights – instead of being real rights – are privileges, and they follow a market logic, based on demand and supply. I think we need to move on from this to a welfare state, and this means that the management of the state is centered on people and their social rights, such as education, housing, healthcare, social security. Access to those rights – except for housing – are granted now and you have the supposed liberty to choose between the public and private sectors, but that liberty isn’t real as such, because we all know that those who can access private services are those who have the money to do it. So, that liberty doesn’t exist, and as such the state should guarantee a minimum standard for everybody.

Q: Will you pursue a career in politics once this process ends?
A: The truth is that I’m not using this process as a political trampoline, but the opposite. I wanted to get involved because of what it implicates, which is to draft a new constitution, and I think I have tools that would enable me to be of help in the convention, considering that I’m finishing my degree in law at a university that has a public seal, and that’s why I’m interested in this process. I don’t think I will continue in politics, perhaps I will continue my work in District 9, because there is a lot that still needs to be done, but not necessarily from a political standpoint.

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