A new Constitution for Chile, a precedent for the world

"New Constitution now" Credits: Reuters

Chile voted to the members of the new Constitution this weekend, which is drawn up by a joint constituent assembly (equal parts of women and men) for the first time

This weekend, Chile lived an unprecedented political experience. It is an inflection point for the politics of the country, but somehow also for the world. It has been the first time in the world that a Constitution is drawn up by a joint constituent assembly, that is, equal parts of women and men. In addition, its elaboration will be subjected to a process of public exposure never seen before.

Independent and opposition candidates have won two-thirds of seats in the body that will write the new Constitution in Chile. Government-backed candidates have only secured about a fourth of the seats. Right-wing President Sebastián Piñera said his government and other traditional political parties should heed the “loud and clear” message that they had not adequately responded to the needs of citizens.

In the referendum from last year, Chileans decided (with 78% of the votes in favor) to finalize the neoliberal Constitution of Pinochet of 1980 and draft a new Magna Carta, which will be dealt with by the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention who have been elected this Saturday and Sunday. Women’s rights activists say that the country’s new constitution will catalyze progress for women in the country and could set a new standard for gender equality in politics.

However, it is important to make sure that the parity is real and that it is not just a bureaucratic step. “I love that Chile can set an example in this aspect, but it cannot be only this. Not all women are feminists and not all men are not feminists. Therefore, that it is joint does not necessarily guarantee that it will have principles of gender equality, so it is important not to lose sight of that”, Carolina Trivelli, from Chile, states.

“Obviously, I don’t know how it will turn out in the end, but I hope that in a few more years women will be able to say that the new Constitution did represent them and that parity was not just a rule to justify the process”, Arístides Progulakis, who is a journalist with experience in different television channels in Chile, exemplifies.

Another new element about this Constitution in the country is that there are 17 seats reserved for representatives of native people, seven of them for the Mapuche, the majority group, and the rest for the other nine indigenous minorities. There are 95 applicants in this category, who can only be voted by citizens who defined themselves as indigenous in the last register (more than two million people out of a population of 19 million inhabitants).

An inflection point to represent the changes of the country in the new Constitution

The 1980 Constitution was drawn up during the Pinochet military regime and for a very relevant sector of Chilean society it has an illegitimate origin, despite the fact that it was substantially modified in 1989 and 2005. “I feel that the rules and institutions of the current constitution do not represent many of the changes that the country has undergone. For this reason, I am hopeful that the new one will create greater trust among people, as well as towards the institutions in Chile”, Progulakis explains.

“New Constitution now” Credits: Reuters

A new constitution for Chile emerged during the uprising in October 2019, when calls for equality and fair access to health, pensions and education expanded to a demand for the whole political framework. “The constitution was written by people with conservative, neoliberal thoughts, without any spirit of social rights, of social justice. It must be completely modified. The issue of social rights is essential. Chilean society should guarantee access to health, education, housing, and decent pensions. Those are four fundamental points. I would also like to see more rights for all minorities, thinking about migrants, indigenous peoples and LGTBI+ community”, Trivelli points out. She would also like more sexual and reproductive rights, especially legalizing abortion.

The students, leaders of the revolutions and ‘engines’ for changes in Chile

Students were the protagonists of the 2019 revolution, which began with the increase in the price of the subway, but ended with a demand for improvements in terms of educational and social equality. But they also were the leaders of the demonstrations for education in 2011 and 2006 in with the ‘Penguin Revolution’ (it was known as Penguins’ Revolution or The March of the Penguins, because of their uniform) .

The ‘Penguin Revolution’. “Study to fight, fight to study” – Credits: Conclusión.

Students also played a fundamental role in standing up against the Pinochet dictatorship. “It seems that history repeats itself and that the role of ‘engine’ is played over and over again by the students. Somehow, they have been able to spread their rebellion to the rest of society and I feel that it is something for which they are recognized and valued today”, Progulakis says.

“It is incredible to see how the youth still do not lose the desire to fight for the things they believe at all costs, for justice, for dignity, for human rights. The students have shown their faces all over the country even though they are the furthest from the times of dictatorship, they are the ones who express the greatest disenchantment and they managed to represent many people in a very powerful way. The gratitude is gigantic!”, Trivelli concludes.

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