Chile’s Constitutional Convention elections were held at the weekend, where 155 people were elected to write a new Constitution.
Before we get on to the winners and losers, we must first consider turnout, as a government-related candidate highlighted, “Curiously, despite being billed as the most significant election for 30 years, turnout was just 42%. This is one of the lowest figures for three decades and lower than the 51% who voted for constitutional reform.”
“Despite being billed as the most significant election for 30 years, turnout was just 42% […] lower than the 51% who voted for constitutional reform.”
Government-related Constitutional Convention candidate, Chile
Therefore, some people voted for constitutional reform but don’t care who rewrites it!
In the end, both the right and centre-left suffered a severe defeat as the electorate favoured independent candidates who will likely account for almost 45 seats in the Congress. President Sebastián Piñera’s list will likely obtain 39 seats and Aprueba, a centre-left coalition list, which included the Concertación party that ruled Chile from 1990 until 2010, will hardly reach 25 seats out of the 155 deputies that will form the constitutional Congress.
A political analyst in Chile reported, “Although the outlook is bad for the Chilean right, the results are also bad for the centre-left. There is concern about the operation of the Constitutional Convention due to the high proportion of members with no political or negotiating experience, which could complicate the process.”
“There is concern about the operation of the Constitutional Convention due to the high proportion of members with no political or negotiating experience.”
Political analyst, Chile
In other words, the plurality of independent members will likely make political consensus difficult, which will make political negotiations arduous. However, it will give Chileans a sense of ownership over the birth of a new constitution that was not the case with the current one.
Additionally, the rise of parties in the left (the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio) is seen as a result of the 2019 massive protests that drove the Chilean Government to agree on a constitutional referendum. These parties, alongside left-leaning independent members have vowed to implement laws to tackle inequality, with higher public spending in education, healthcare and pensions. They will also favour a greater state participation in the economy and guaranteeing greater state control of mineral and natural resources, most of which are currently under private hands.
The political analyst described what is likely to happen next, “Many Chileans probably do not feel fully represented, so it is difficult to predict how the public will behave towards the new text when drafted. It seems like many people will not be interested! We must also remember that the new Constitution must be approved in a national ratifying plebiscite once it has been drafted by the Convention.”
In the short-term, our sources do not expect a return to the social unrest seen in recent years but confirm that the government of Sebastián Piñera is becoming less relevant. The political analyst concluded, “The current levels of support for Piñera are under 10%, the lowest a president has had since 1990. The Executive has lost the initiative with the Congress having more power, even in clear breaches of the current Constitution.”