Whether approval or rejection is imposed in the next plebiscite to define our constitutional future, everything augurs a terrible outlook if we consider that in any case what will be imposed is the triumph of intransigence and sectarianism. Especially when everyone accepts that whichever option wins at the polls, it will be by a discreet lead. This is a far cry from what happened in the referendum a year ago when the winning option won by almost 80 per cent of the vote.
The division is profound and does not allow for nuances, even if common sense indicates that the new constitutional text suffers from some shortcomings, errors and contradictions and the vast majority considers that a new Constitution is still necessary. In other words, the Magna Carta inherited from the dictatorship with the amendments made subsequently, especially during the government of Ricardo Lagos, should not prevail under any circumstances.
Although the election campaign period has only just begun, tempers are running high and it no longer seems possible to find a compromise formula to avoid the absurd dichotomy that citizens will have to face. Parties are taking positions, as are many public figures, while more than a few public actors prefer to remain silent rather than be caught in the crossfire. Leaders who until recently had their supporters or detractors, as in the case of Lagos himself and several others, are now being vilified for expressing their doubts about the process and avoiding their definitive vote. At the same time, the right-wing is seeking to rally opponents to the proposed constitutional text, feigning a sudden interest in an institutionality that for decades they opposed to repealing and re-founding. The word “democracy” is being bandied about and manipulated by all sides, especially by those who had no qualms about overthrowing a government such as Salvador Allende’s and overthrowing the 1925 Constitution.
Certainly, until the social outburst of 2019, the bulk of the political class did not make the necessary efforts to replace a text that clearly defended the subsidiary state, consolidated the neoliberal social economic order, restricted the fundamental rights of the population, sacralized profit in education and health, as well as provoking the deepest social inequality in our history.
Driven by the severe social protest, the government and the legislators agreed on a political solution in favour of a Constitutional Convention that imposed parity of membership and the possibility that a group of organisations and individuals from a very diverse ideological and social spectrum could act as constituents, Among them were also a group of adventurers and leaders who contributed greatly to the country losing confidence in this Convention and, in terms of results, an almost interminable text was imposed, of very improbable popular reading, as well as rules that are too dissimilar to the characteristics of our previous constitutions. Among them, the dissolution of the Senate of the Republic and the suppression of some of the powers of the President of the Republic.
Gabriel Boric’s commitment to “I approve” is undisguisable, but it has put the ruler in the uncomfortable position that many Chileans, by rejecting the new Constitution, are taking advantage of the opportunity to punish a government that is falling in the polls and which many already doubt its leftism and willingness to confront inequality, relentless inflation and so many demands that have once again been frustrated. It is not for nothing that the Communist Party has been forced in recent days to demand from La Moneda the granting of a winter bonus or something similar to alleviate the situation of the poorest or most vulnerable, as they prefer to call them. An initiative that, in this existing intolerance, has infuriated the President’s other allies.
For the sake of anecdote, let’s mention the old Christian Democrat custom of addressing letters to their comrades and ending them with a salute to the party “fraternity”. We very much doubt that this custom prevails today in the profound division that reigns in the Falange and which has led its senator Francisco Huenchumilla to propose the dissolution of this collectivity in the most harmonious terms possible. Let us note the fact that whatever position the party adopts on the September plebiscite, it is assumed that each militant will do as he or she pleases, as many are already proclaiming. The same would be true of the Socialists, the PPD, the Radicals and others, with whom party discipline is most in crisis.
Curiously, it is on the right where at the moment it is possible to find more coherence and willingness to vote for the rejection of the constitutional text. But it is fair to point out that it is not strictly speaking the Magna Carta that most concerns this sector, nor its democratic vocation. For this and the business associations, what is in danger is the economic model, the dissolution of the AFPs and the isapres, as well as the loss of certain tax privileges. In this regard, it is worth recalling the famous phrase of Diego Portales, a former dictator considered a “statesman” and so admired by the right and other sectors: “I can tell you that, law or no law, that lady they call the Constitution must be violated when the circumstances are extreme”.
This secret ballot, the possibility of voting blank or canceling the ballot, when one’s convictions differ from the only two options of the Plebiscite, is, in reality, a right that is currently very much in question due to the illegitimate pressure that is put on voters on a daily basis, especially through social networks. This pressure does not even respect the independence demanded by journalists themselves and, indeed, by public officials. In this, essential human rights are clearly being violated. Just as in other dramatic moments of our civic existence, even families have been so affected by the intolerance exercised against our coexistence.
If the positions become more irreconcilable, if the tensions in the southern macro-zone and other regions of the country become more acute, the permanent danger of military insurrection cannot be ruled out. We already have members of the so-called “military family” who do not rule out new pronouncements that challenge democratic institutionality and due obedience to the republican authorities. Just as the first voices of empathy in favor of uninformed intervention have been heard from the political world itself.