In case of winning the “I approve” in the plebiscite of September 4th, we will face an unprecedented situation in a constituent process at world level: That the organ in charge of concretizing in laws a great part of the new constitutional text will be the current Congress, which by then will represent a defunct Constitution! And -what is worse- it will be a Congress where the most traditional right wing -a staunch enemy of the new text- has a majority, through its 50% (25) of the Senate. In other words, a legislative branch elected by the “old regime” – and clearly an “enemy” of the new one – will be in charge of implementing the new Constitution. This is absurd and contradictory by any standards.
Incidentally, this will mean that the most relevant provisions of the new Constitution in terms of substantial reforms of the neoliberal model will not be in force, at least for the next four years. Obviously, the right wing will not give its votes in the Senate to put into law the profoundly reformist statements of the new constitutional text (if it is approved) in labour, trade union, social security, health and housing matters.
And remarkably, this is an issue that has been totally omitted from public debate by the Moors and Christians! It seems that “right and left” have colluded again on this, as they have done so many times over the last 30 years on crucial issues that have remained completely unknown to the generality of Chilean society: Gift of the parliamentary majority of the Concertación leadership to the right in 1989; extermination of the entire centre-left press by successive Concertación governments since 1990; condoning of the corrupt privatisations carried out at the end of the dictatorship; continuation of the scandalous subsidies to the big forestry companies and of the possibilities of tax “dodging” for the biggest taxpayers; etc.
Nor has anyone noticed that the obvious subsequent generation of a new Congress afterwards, after the eventual approval of a new Constitution, was also fully supported by the very Constitutional Reform of December 2019 (Law 21.200) that gave rise to the Constitutional Convention that has just finished its work. Indeed, Article 138 stipulated that “the New Constitution may not put an early end to the term of office of the authorities elected by popular vote, unless those institutions that they integrate are abolished or substantially modified”. And the modifications agreed for the new Legislative Branch by the draft new Constitution have been substantial indeed!
As if all the above were not enough, the absurd retention of the “old” Congress to implement the new Constitution brings with it another disastrous consequence for the new combination of government, if it wishes effectively to carry out its promised presidential programme. This is that if the current Congress is maintained for four more years, it will be absolutely certain that Boric will not have a parliamentary majority throughout his government… By contrast, with elections following an Apruebo victory – to which he has naturally committed himself – the government could quite probably hope to obtain a clear majority in both chambers.
It is therefore incredible that the very parties of the government coalition that in the Convention – together with the more left-wing and indigenous parties – had the two-thirds needed to pass the Convention – have given up! The only logical explanation is that they retain the same deceitful disposition that the Chilean “centre-left” has had for the past 30 years: a clearly centre-left discourse and an unequivocally right-wing practice of contributing to legitimising, consolidating and “perfecting” the neo-liberal economic and cultural model imposed by the dictatorship. A disposition that “schizophrenically” allowed them to boast in general about the 30 years; and, at the same time -when they were very naked about the fact that the fundamental economic-social things had not changed at all- to argue that the right wing with its parliamentary majority (an argument that, moreover, for many years was not even true) had not allowed them to make the changes they wanted! Even today (it should be borne in mind that almost all of the former Concertación is in a government alliance with the FA and the PC) they repeat this argument to discredit the right’s argument that they want to “reject in order to reform”! In other words, they certainly want the “Apruebo” to win, but not to substantially modify the economic model, but rather to agree again with the “right” on minor changes, which they will present as forced by the senatorial majority of the right that will not accept major changes?
On the other hand, it is clear that the right wing wants the Rejection to win, so that it can also reach a consensus – but on better terms than by winning the Approval – on some changes to the model that will give it a better face in front of the country. But not because it is really afraid of an eventual victory for Approval, which – as we have seen – it will be able to neutralise to a large extent with its majority in the Senate. We must remember that, since 1920 with the campaign of Arturo Alessandri (grotesquely presented as the “Chilean Lenin”), the right has always presented terrifying pictures when it perceives that it could lose privileges as a result of electoral defeats. The only times it was truly terrified was with Allende in 1964 and 1970. The first time led it to unconditionally support Frei – despite the fact that he was clearly proposing a “Revolution in Freedom” – as the lesser evil and hoping to neutralise him. And since it failed to do so – and with Tomic even more revolutionary than Frei – it risked putting all its “institutional chips” in 1970 on Jorge Alessandri; and, if it lost, to gamble on extra-institutional means…
Unfortunately, all this places us in a scenario in which, whatever the outcome of the September plebiscite, we cannot expect any fundamental transformation of the “Chilean model” in the foreseeable future.