- Daniel Garcia Marco
- BBC World News
Chile will elect this weekend the 155 members who will form the Constituent Convention and will draft a new Constitution, a process that arose in response to the demands of the social outbreak that shook the country as of October 2019.
The procedure, supported by 78% of the voters in a referendum in October 2020, will end in 2022 with another popular consultation that will approve or reject the text that will replace the 1980 Constitution written under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.
The members, who will be elected on an equal basis between men and women and among whom there will be guaranteed representation for indigenous peoples, will make decisions by a two-thirds majority in a process that will last from nine to 12 months.
In a convulsive climate in Latin America, exacerbated by the pandemic and with Colombia as the most current example, what is happening in Chile is seen as a possible example of how to address social demands with a democratic process that renews the State.
“This is a rare opportunity to focus on reforming the foundations of a state,” the American professor tells BBC Mundo. Bruce Ackerman, from Yale University.
Ackerman is one of the world’s leading experts on constitutionalism and the author of books such as Revolutionary Constitutions (Revolutionary Constitutions).
You have studied various constituent processes in the world and in Latin America.What makes different a This process From Chile?
The most positive innovation here is that the members of the Constituent Convention cannot be in government at the same time.
There are short-term problems in the country, such as the coronavirus crisis and other emergencies, and the government should focus on solving these problems.
Then we have the long-term problems and one of them is how to get out of this crisis of constitutionalism in the world. We must look at how institutions help us get out of this crisis or exacerbate it.
Having popularly elected members who only focus on these issues is a great innovation. Few times in history has this separation occurred.
To get a sense of this crucial issue is that the Convention can debate whether Chile should break with the presidential model of government that has led to so many military coups in the history of the region and choose instead to give the world and Latin America an idea of that a parliamentary system would work better against populism of the right and the left.
Chile is an example of hope for Latin America and the rest of the world and it can be like Scandinavia. Chile has the same population as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which have led Europe in the 20th century for their social democracy.
So, you believe that an eventual change of the political system is the best hope of the process.
It is correct, and the notion that a Constituent Convention is usually dominated by the government.
No list will win 51%. Many of its members will be from the young population, from the next generation. They have also nominated senior people, 70-75 years old who have wisdom.
So we have energy, youth and wisdom. And it is in the interests of these groups that it succeeds.
And what do you think of the singularities of the parity between men and women in the Convention, the debate of social rights, environmental rights, of the indigenous rights and that any decision must be approved by a majority ofFrom thirds?
What is crucial and what makes it exemplary is the independence of the government. Then there are important issues, but if the Convention creates a good governmental structure, those issues will be debated and resolved in government institutions.
The two-thirds thing is excellent because a Constitution cannot be only of the right or the left, it has to be of all.
Decision-making by majority of two-thirdscan do whether the Constitution is very broad or very limited, depending on the levels of agreement. Isn’t it a risk?
This is a rare opportunity to focus on reforming the foundations of a state.
In a parliamentary system, and the Constituent Convention is pure parliamentarism, the capacity for extremes to confront each other is reduced, and this is the crucial thing.
This process is seen as asolution to the social outbreak that started in 2019. Isn’t there a risk that there are too many expectations because it is seen as the solution to all the country’s problems?
Whatever you do, the left or the right will say that it is not enough. Total consensus is an illusion.
The question is whether the Constitution arrives at good fundamental principles. With the rule of two thirds there is an interest in converging principles on which the left and the right will agree.
But the Constitution is just a set of good good intentiones, it is not the final step. In itself it is not enough, is it?
That is completely wrong.
Let’s be practical: if Chile decides to continue to have a bicameral parliament, for example, it is a big difference, because it makes it more difficult for things to be approved. If you opt for proportional electoral representation instead of the winner-take-all system, as in the United States, all of that is a big difference… Institutions matter.
But for example, now there is a conflict and protests In colombia. And Colombia has a relatively young Constitution with many guarantees. In other words, it is an example that the Constitution itself is not the solution.
Despite the government’s problems, Chile has the basic conditions of the rule of law.
If the Convention responds to popular demands for fundamental reform, this new Constitution will not be born out of an institutional vacuum.
On the contrary, the Convention will reorganize the relationship between Parliament, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Army in a way that responds to the demands for social and environmental justice of the 21st century.
In contrast, Colombia has been the scene of an ongoing war (between the state and the guerrillas) that has shattered many of the fundamental institutional assumptions of the democratic system.
As a consequence, rebuilding a legitimate constitutional order will not happen in the next few years. It will take a generation of democratic leadership before Colombia, like Chile, can make a Constituent Convention that has a serious chance of gaining broad popular support for a Constitution that meets the challenges of the 21st century.
Another fear in Chile is that the traditional parties, against which the people were also protesting as part of the system, took control of the Constituent process and that perhaps they want a change to keep everything the same.
That is a danger, but we should not talk about the games. What we have here are people between 30 and 45 years old from different parties and people between 60-75 years old from different parties.
More than parties, I believe that the fundamental difference is the division between new generations and older generations.
Y Many independents are also running. What role can they play?
Those independents must know that they must be mediators and be part of those two-thirds that get things approved.
I see two dangers: that the government whispers to the members of the Convention what they must decide.
The other, the biggest, is for each one to play their media game and blame each other and for everything to fall apart.
But I don’t think any of these things will happen. If they are successful, it will be a model of hope and not only for Chile… In the end, the Convention has to deal with significant issues for the next 40 years.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.