The start of writing a new constitution in Chile has been restless. A special council of 155 elected citizens began today with the new Constitution, which should replace the current 1980 Constitution. It‘s still from the time of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The day started festive. The problems arose during various protest marches organized by independent groups, left-wing groups and indigenous groups, who have delegates on the Citizens’ Council. Other interest groups also succeeded with heavily armed agents.
As protesters went through the barricades, the flame hit the pan, and the police responded with tear gas and water cannons.
Tumult also arose during the ceremony to start the work. Delegates complained about the crack-handed police performance, hit drums and screams through a classic youth orchestra that played the national anthem. The ceremony has finally been postponed.
The old Constitution is seen as one of the causes of the great social inequality in the South American country. In the fall of 2019, massive protests arose about this.
At a referendum in October last year, a large majority of Chileans voted in favour of a new constitution and the setting up of the Special Council; the “Constitutional Convention”. Two months ago, the 155 citizens were elected to write the law.
In the current Constitution, private ownership is the norm, including in sectors covered by the public sector in many other countries, such as healthcare, education, pensions and the drinking water system. Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America and counts most multimillionaires, but many workers are struggling to get by. Many are deeply in debt to pay schooling or retirement.
Right and Left
The citizen platform to design the law includes teachers, lawyers, scientists, social workers, veterinarians, writers, journalists, actors, and a housewife. The youngest member is 21 years old, half of the members are female and 17 seats are destined for representatives of indigenous groups. Many participated in the 2019 protests themselves.
Over the past decades, Chile has been governed by an elite group on the right side of the political spectrum, which did not want to torment the free market economy. “They came from the same elementary schools, went to the same universities, and most people lived in the best neighborhoods of the capital Santiago,” a senior Chilean UN official describes the “old guard” at AFP news agency.
The new citizen platform has a smaller role on the right. Independent candidates, apart from the traditional parties, made the biggest profit and hold 46 percent of the vote together, centre-left parties received a third of the votes and the right-wing parties around 20 percent.
Before the Constitution enters into force, a two-thirds majority of 155 platform members must agree on the text. Eventually, the new Constitution will be presented to the population in a referendum next year. The Chileans are obliged to vote for this.