The triumph of the Republican Party in the Constitutional Council elections earlier this month has led some members to get complacent. Others are trying to reconcile the party’s factions to achieve a constitutional draft that appeals to voters. With the party’s power to rewrite the Constitution, internal tensions will only increase.
Chile’s neo-pinochetist Republican Party will dominate the Constitutional Council that’s writing the new Constitution in a process bound to test party cohesion.
Tensions are set to grow between the radical and less radical wings. Initially, the party was the only one that’s opposed a new Constitution. But in the May 7 Constitutional Council elections it obtained a supermajority, enabling it to overturn the foundations developed by the expert commission.
Now, the party must decide if it wants to present a text that appeals to a voter majority, can be approved in a popular plebiscite in December – and pave the way into government palace La Moneda.
One contentious issue is changing Chile from a subsidiary to a social and democratic state. This change has been a left-wing goal for years but has become popular among the center and the traditional right, too. The Republican Party supported enshrining the change in the new Constitution, even though party chief José Antonio Kast previously vehemently opposed it.
Other issues will be the healthcare system and gender parity. Many voters oppose the Republican Party’s position on these issues.
Opus Dei member Luis Silva, who obtained most votes countrywide in the Constitutional Council elections on May 7, already took issue with majorities having to forge agreements with minorities.
Such triumphant comments were frequent in the election aftermath, even though the elected council members were advised to keep a low profile until their work formally starts. Yet, Republican lawmakers have signaled intent more openly.
The Road Ahead
They voted against a minimum wage increase and a mining royalty, which is expected to deliver large resources to public coffers and for security measures. In addition, party head José Antonio Kast previously rejected a social state outright.
The party said it would win even if voters would reject the draft, but this is mere bravado. Rejection would bury the party. Of course, the worst error it could commit is believing its triumph on May 7 reflected a popular belief in its ideology. Its campaign focused 100% on public safety and not at all on the Constitution.
It remains to be seen which issue will be contingent in December.
Germán Silva Cuadra is an expert in corporate communications and a regular commentator on Chilean politics. His latest book is ‘No te reconozco Chile. Cómo entender al país que noqueó a la elite.’ Germán tweets under @gsilvacuadra.