Constitutional Process NATIONAL

Luis Silva: The councilor who is likely to lead the Constitution drafting process

In the Constitutional Council elections, Republican representative Luis Silva received more votes than any other candidate. Afterwards, he said that his party never wanted to replace the constitution from the dictatorship era. Who is this conservative lawyer?

The Republican Party candidate Luis Silva Irarrázaval received the most votes out of any candidates in the May 7 Constitutional Council elections. With over 700,000 votes, corresponding to almost 18 percent of the total votes cast in his constituency, Silva is the face of the Republican victory.

Silva is a controversial “winner.” Just hours after the Republican victory, he said that the Republican Party never intended to change the dictatorship-era Constitution in the first place. Who is this conservative supporter of former-Congressman-turned-presidential-candidate José Antonio Kast?

Who is Silva?

Silva was born in Santiago in 1978 as the first son of a lawyer and a journalist. He studied law at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), and obtained his undergraduate degree in 2002. After completing his Ph.D. in law at the Universidad de los Andes in 2009, he left to become a fellow at Princeton University in the United States.

After returning to Chile, he served as the vice-rector of research and postgraduate studies at his alma maters, Universidad de los Andes, and as professor of Constitutional Law at PUC.

In addition, Silva is a contributor to the online news site Diario Constitucional, specializing in Chilean public law, with special emphasis on everything related to the Chilean Constitution.

Silva is deeply religious. He is a numerary (member) of the strict Catholic sect Opus Dei. Its members seek to “implement Christian ideals and values in their occupations and in society as a whole.” Silva reiterated this, saying that Jesus Christ is his role model in his professional and political career.

In line with the mores of Opus Dei, Silva is not married and celibate. He is an outspoken pro-life activist and is against euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

Political career

Silva is an outspoken supporter of Jaime Guzmán. This Chilean lawyer was a trusted advisor to dictator Augusto Pinochet, and the architect of Chile’s 1980 Constitution. Silva, who just like Guzmán holds a title in constitutional law, has been a recurring guest speaker at the “Jóvenes al servicio de Chile” program by the conservative think tank the Jaime Guzmán Foundation.

It is through this foundation that Silva came into contact with Kast. Silva quickly became a loyal follower of the right-wing politician. “If Kast was not a Republican, I wouldn’t be either,” he told Ex-Ante.

Together with Kast, he was one of the founding members of the political movement Acción Republicana in 2018. After Kast founded the Republican Party, in 2019, Silva became a member of the party in October 2021.

During the elections for the Constitutional Convention in May 2021 (the Constitutional Council’s predecessor, which drafted last year’s overwhelmingly-rejected (first) proposed new Constitution), Silva participated as an independent candidate for the center-right coalition Chile Vamos, but was not elected. During the parliamentary elections that same year, he participated as an independent candidate for Chile Vamos once more, but was not elected then either.

In 2023, he made his comeback. His campaign for the Constitutional Council was supported by Kast and by former Minister of Education Marcela Cubillos, who was his professor in constitutional law at the PUC. In a campaign video in which he and Kast were dressed as Star Wars characters, Kast called Silva “the chosen one of the force.”

What the far-right victory means for Chilean politics

Two key themes in Silva’s campaigns were tackling the security crisis and the migration crisis, central concerns to many Chileans and ostensibly top priorities for La Moneda but ones that arguably have little to do with the Constitution.

The Republicans know this, of course. When commenting on the Republican victory, Silva mentioned that his party is a bigger proponent of making necessary changes through Congress, instead of rewriting the Constitution.

His words added fuel to the deception that dominated among proponents of a new Constitution.  How will they be able to write a constitution that appeals to the whole country, if they don’t mind the current constitution?

Elisa Loncón, the president of last year’s Constitutional Convention said that “a party that never wanted to change the Constitution has won.”

As the Republican favorite, Silva is likely to assume Loncón’s role as leader of this year’s drafting body. Whether he and the Republican bench manage to write a constitution that can unite a polarized Chile, remains to be seen.

The Constitutional Council has until November 6 to finish its draft. On December 17, Chile will vote on the (second) proposed new Constitution in a national plebiscite.

Also read: 

Next steps on Chile’s path to a possible new constitution

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