Constitutional Process

Political Parties Prepare for the Plebiscite

SANTIAGO – Chile’s political parties prepare for the April plebiscite by recruiting production companies to promote their respective “Approve” or “Reject” campaigns. Both sides have until the end of February to prepare their campaigns. It remains to be seen, however, whether the “Approve” side will amass the same resources as the “Reject.”

Ever since the “Accord for Social Peace and a New Constitution” was agreed upon by Chilean legislators, Chile’s political parties and coalitions have been scrambling to stake out their respective positions and to prepare their campaigns for the historic plebiscite on Apr. 26, 2020, when voters will have the option of choosing between, “Rechazo” or “Reject” which means the current constitution remains, and, “Apruebo” or “Approve”  which means changing the constitution.

The race is more heated than ever, now that the electoral service has stated the rules and conditions for the campaigns, which will officially begin on Feb. 26 and last until Apr. 23. In general, the same rules govern the plebiscite that govern regular elections, meaning that there can be no propaganda from either side until the official campaign starting date. The only places that can have propaganda are open public spaces like parks and sidewalks and private property but only with the owners’ permission. However, one exception is that any private property that functions as a public service, for example the metro system, are completely barred from having any kind of propaganda.

As for the propaganda that shows up on the media, the rules state they can only make sure that the media companies charge the same to both sides of the plebiscite. However, Servel has recognized the existence of a legal loophole that prevents them from being able to oversee private companies that are creating propaganda through social media.

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Preparing the “Approve” side

Currently, the “Approve” side consists of most of the leftist coalitions like Broad Front, Unity for Change, and Progressive Convergence, as well as some individual parties like Christian Democracy, Evopoli,  and certain factions of National Renewal, the later two breaking away from their own right-winged coalition, Chile Vamos.

The primary reasons behind the push for a new constitution stem from the current constitution’s roots in the Pinochet Dictatorship, the fact that it protects the needs of industries above the needs of society, and the fact that it gives the executive branch much more power than the legislative and judicial branches.

A big issue that has hobbled the “Approve” side, however, is a lack of funding. It simply does not have the same amount of resources as the “Reject” side. This is why the Socialist Party is currently asking the government exactly how the campaigns are going to be financed; it wants to make sure that the campaigns are realized in a fair and equal manner.

Even with their limited funds, “Approve” supporters have managed to pull some big names into their corner. At the moment, screenwriter Pablo Paredes and comedian Fabrizio Copano have sided with them; and, last week, Sebastián Lelio, the director of the Oscar winning movie “A Fantastic Woman,” announced via Twitter that he would be participating as an independent citizen and the next day cemented his position as part of the “Approve” campaign.

On Jan. 20 the Progressive Convergence unveiled their campaign slogan which is, “Apruebo Chile Digno”, meaning “I approve of a Dignified Chile”, and showed their banners that consists of different models of As but with different symbols that support different causes. The idea is to promote the idea of a new constitution that represents the diversity that exists in Chile, that’s why they also promote the idea of a constitutional convention, so that everyone can be present in the new constitution.

Broad Front decide to take a different approach to the campaign and launched “Que Chile Decida”, “Let Chile Decide”, their main purpose is to inform normal citizens about what the process will be like and what they want as a coalition to put on the new constitution. They’ll also be creating spaces for everyone to gather around and have their questions answered by experts on the subject.

The “Reject” side

The side that votes to reject the new constitution consists of right-wing coalition, Chile Vamos, which consists of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) and certain factions of National Renewal. Joining them are the smaller hard-right parties, like the Republican Party, National Force, and New Time.

The campaign presented by National Renewal party will revolve around the slogan “Rechazar para Reformar”, meaning Reject to Reform, their idea is that creating a new constitution from scratch would mean instability for the country and that all the problems can be solved by creating projects to reform the current constitution. At the moment their campaign is being backed by 8 senators and 25 representatives, among those, Andrés Allamand, Diego Schalper, and Camila Flores.

Unfortunately since Servel can’t regulate the content realized by private companies that take place online, it means that plenty of propaganda has shown up on social media, like on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Most of these campaign has been met with criticism and ridicule by both experts and citizens. With many of them becoming memes used by users who support the “Approve” side.

Last week, UDI president Jacqueline van Rysselberghe announced that they would be using the agency Chile Rayo to create their campaign, and that Alex Hernández, who directed the Viña del Mar Festival in 2018, would be in charge. It was also announced that their slogan would be “Hagamosla Corta”, lets make it quick, referencing the nine months that would take place between the plebiscite and the creation of the new constitution. The campaign would have a focus on being colorful and using emoticons as well as memes to get the message across.

The decision to use Hernández has been criticized. He has been a controversial figure ever since he was accused of unnecessary eroticism in his reality TV program Mekano and of sexual abuses by some dancers who worked on that program. Some members of UDI also criticize the content of the campaign, saying that it does not appeal to the party’s public because it is too focused on attracting a younger audience.

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