Chile began writing a proposal for a new constitution this Monday by establishing a commission of 24 experts, 12 men and 12 women, elected by Congress. The South American country is attempting to change its current Magna Carta for the second time in four years, after 62% of citizens rejected the previous proposal in September 2022. As requested by progressivism, the panel, made up mostly of legal experts, will be chaired by a woman: lawyer Veronika Unduraga, from the center-left Party for Democracy (PPD). The right wing, meanwhile, has left the vice presidency in the hands of constitutionalist Sebastián Soto, close to former President Sebastián Piñera and a representative of the opposition organization Evopoli.
The Commission of Experts was sworn in this morning in a quiet ceremony at the Senate in Santiago de Chile. He has three months to prepare a speech that will serve as the basis for the work of the Constitutional Council, a joint body of 50 councilors elected by citizens on May 7. This stage begins with a challenge: Chileans’ lack of interest and distrust in the current organizational process, as reflected in various surveys. According to the Pulso Ciudadano poll, while 50.9% of people approve of changing the constitution, 57.1% have little or no faith in the new process.
The modesty and sobriety of the Commission’s swearing-in ceremony, the absence of invited officials, was reflected in the discreet arrival of advisers at the Parliament building to the speeches of various members. Two concepts were repeated: moderation and respect. Although it is not mandatory, the group sings the National Anthem once the inauguration ceremony officially begins. It was the right thing to do last week and there was a consensus to make the gesture. It was a nod to national traditions and history that the previous convention had ignored, leading Chileans to overwhelmingly reject their proposal in a September referendum.
Ahead of the ceremony, the group of experts met with the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Alvaro Elizalde and Vlado Mirošević, respectively, from the ruling party. All 24 commissioners participated without any difference in political alliance. “The republic is in your hands,” the socialist militant Elizalde told them.
Chile has undergone a long process to change the constitution, born in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), which has been reformed dozens of times in a democracy. This is the path given by the political class to citizens after the social explosion of October 2019. After the process failed last September, when Chile rejected a plan that sought to change most of the Chilean institutions, most of the political forces represented in the parliament, they reached a new political agreement to try again, but in a completely different way than before: 12 constitutional foundations were established, which are unbreakable – As Chile continues to be a unitary state-, the establishment of this commission began today with experts, elected councilors will work before taking office and, in addition, a technical panel of 14 judges who will act as arbitrators.
Hernán Lorraine (75 years old), the oldest expert and former justice minister of the second Piñera government, presided over the ceremony at the headquarters of the Parliament in Santiago de Chile, in the center of the city. As the commissioners took office, quiet applause was heard in the building at the end of the 19th century, which in recent decades has witnessed major events in Chilean political life.
Both the ceremony and the approach of the 24 experts were marked by low profile and order. This is in stark contrast to what happened on July 4, 2021, when the constitutional convention that drew up the rejected plan was established. There were no incidents on the street this Monday, as there were two years ago. The lack of agreement in the earlier process was reflected in the text itself, even the election of the board of directors lasted for several hours. But this time it didn’t happen like that. The experts, careful not to make the same mistakes, elected their president and vice president by a show of hands within 30 seconds. Those are the two names already agreed upon.
“As the chair of this expert commission, I want to pay tribute to my peers and colleagues and the support staff who help us in this work,” said Veronica Unduraga upon her election. “No one should feel invisible, no one should feel tired, defeated or defeated. Rather, our aim will be to protect their well-being, respect for their life plans, their dignity, their dignity,” said a centre-left lawyer appearing for the commission for the PPD party. President Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006). Current Home Minister Carolina Doha belongs to this party.
The consolidation of the board of directors reflects the moderation with which this new constituent process begins. The left of the official coalition, I Approve Dignity, formed by the Communist Party and Borik’s Broad Front, did not play a major role, although their representatives positioned themselves strategically in thematic subgroups interested in influencing the political establishment. and take care of social rights.
The first task of the expert committee was to prepare a code for the draft constitution. They will be working against the clock, because in 90 days their proposal must be ready to present it to the Constituent Assembly, which will assume its functions on June 7.
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