To Eila Belila
All kinds of reactions have arisen after the triumph of the rejection of the proposed Magna Carta emanating from the Constituent Convention. Those most resistant to change think that this popular verdict simply means that the country prefers to give validity to the institutional order inherited from the dictatorship with the usual modifications that were approved during the Transition. For the most optimistic, the rejection was a necessary milestone to insist on a new effort to give us a new Constitution.
Those who maintain their hope in a new constituent process believe that the results of the exit plebiscite can be explained much more by a rejection of President Boric’s governmental administration than by citizen rejection of the proposed text. It is mainly the polls that have pointed to the vertiginous fall of the President in terms of popular support. In this way, they are appealing to the promises made by the right-wing opponents themselves regarding the need to have a new Constitution, but only if it emerges from a process different from the previous one. A promise that we know is aimed at capturing the votes of those who are dissatisfied with what has been done, but still believe in the need for institutional change.
What is clear in this respect is that what happens is now in the hands of the political class, the party leaders and their negotiations in La Moneda and in Parliament. The process that was aborted had the merit of being in the hands of a set of constituents elected by the people and who for the most part proclaimed themselves to be independent. The only salutary aspect of this experience was the lack of interference by the parties and the powers of the State, although we know that this did not prevent a series of scandals and quarrels that ended up discrediting the Constitutional Convention. There is no doubt that the extensive text proposed was difficult for the population to assimilate, as well as raising doubts about some of the proposed changes which, in effect, would have represented a profound legal and institutional reorganisation.
Nor can there be any denying the inequity that occurred in the advertising expenditure of those calling for approval or rejection. According to figures from the Electoral Service itself, those opposed to the text had resources seven times greater than those who were overconfident that the country would approve the text, on the grounds that almost eighty percent of the votes cast by the people only a year earlier had expressed the urgent demand for a new Constitution. These resources, for example in the mass media and street propaganda, undoubtedly influenced the results of the exit plebiscite. Above all, the five million new voters who took part in the elections.
We have now spent several months waiting for the legislative benches to define a new constitutional itinerary. A real political brawl has broken out in the National Congress that is unlikely to culminate in a reasonable agreement as to which body will now draw up a new draft that will be put to the citizens. If it will insist on a constitutional convention or give it another name.
The only thing that all sectors share is that it would be unconscionable to insist on a new Constituent Assembly with so many members and that it would have another long months to fulfil its task. This is all the more so given the enormous resources that the state has invested in such an unsuccessful outcome. What is assumed by all is that this new entity should be parity, but there are severe discrepancies between those who think that its members should only be elected by democratic vote and those who think that it should ensure the presence of some “appointed” members. An option that would give parties the possibility to negotiate the presence of so-called “experts” who, at the same time, represent the interests and positions of those who nominate them. And something that now appears to be very important: that they ensure that the agreements are framed within what are euphemistically called “borders”, which are nothing more than impediments and barriers to ensure a certain continuity in our institutional order. In such a way, for example, that there is no risk of the new constituents deciding on the convenience of defining a new Magna Carta by calling for the election of a new government and legislature.
Although everyone declares that the presence of indigenous peoples must be guaranteed in this new effort, it is no longer clear to anyone how they could be elected in order to ensure their full representation, something that was not achieved in the now dissolved Convention. Nor is there any certainty that those elected will result from an electoral system that actually prevents the full representation of the country’s different constituencies and districts, due to the “positive discrimination” that the current law makes in favour of those areas that are much less populous than others.
Many doubts and drawbacks prevail, but the worst thing is that legislators are debating with an electoral calculator in their hands. It is certainly not a question of arriving at a procedure that culminates in the best selection of men and women in accordance with the characteristics of the territorial distribution of our population, its heterogeneity, convictions and interests. Nor are there any ideological proposals emerging in these intense and heated debates that would contribute to agreeing on the most solid pillars and content of the future Magna Carta.
All parties now, we would say without exception, hope that their collectivities will be as well represented as possible, so that this will subsequently facilitate the practice of the well-known “politics of agreements”. The election of many independents or representatives of social organisations should not be allowed to stand in the way of the negotiations of the political class or caste. Despite the differences between its members, it understands that the country must not give up the limited democracy that has prevailed in the more than 30 years of post-dictatorship.
We also agree with the idea that political parties are fundamental in the practice of democracy, but we cannot fail to point out that in Chile, militants account for barely 10 per cent of citizens. This is mainly due to their bad practices and the widespread disappointment among those who observe them. Many of us fear that in so many dalliances and procrastinations, Chileans will finally lose interest in a new Magna Carta. Thus, some suggest consulting the people again about their real disposition for a new Magna Carta, trusting that this time the majority would not agree so much with repeating a constituent process similar to the one we have already had. Even more so when we see that the political class repeats its vices and bad practices.