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The new Chilean surprise

In a number and proportion that no one, neither surveys nor analysts, could imagine, Chileans rejected by more than 60% the proposal elaborated by a Constitutional Convention that imagined it as one of the longest in the world (388 permanent articles and 57 transitory ) and one of the most radical from the point of view of its institutional innovations. It is the strongest electoral expression produced in Chile in 32 years of democratic restoration. The level of participation has only been surpassed by the plebiscites that defeated Pinochet, a highly uncomfortable comparison, but by no means intrusive.

The rejection of the project is inevitably confused with the rapid disapproval of the government of Gabriel Boric, and with the negative perception of the phenomena of inflation and high levels of criminal and ethnic violence that seemed to have been eradicated in Chile for more than 20 years. The Government underestimated —to say ignored— the importance of these factors, which meant that, for example, in the southern part of the country, shaken by violence carried out in the name of the Mapuche people, the rejection vote exceeded 70%, a paradox for a Constitution that proclaimed itself “indigenist”.

The Constitutional Convention, whose sole mandate was to produce a text that would attract the majority of the country (in Chilean institutionalist rhetoric, “a house for all”), instead feasted on particularisms and identity politics, which led to the biggest plebiscitary failure in history. Many of the external supports for that text —such as that of Bernie Sanders, a record of disinformation and candor— ignored the specific conditions in which Chileans felt threatened or harassed by it. The results show, once again, the iniquity of visions filtered by ideology and desire.

Something similar happened with the Convention, which was elected with an exceptional electoral system, where the registration of independents was privileged over that of parties, again with the social (and socially artificial) theory that the country rejected its institutional traditional political representation. As soon as the assembly was installed, it became clear that at least one of the most successful lists of independents was not of such, but of committed militants of ultra-left groups, many of whom had been participating enthusiastically in the acts of violence of the years previous. The quality of the Convention born from that theory, which the jurists present at it could not improve, is the first explanation for Sunday’s result.

The plebiscite puts an end to the cycle started by the violent riot of October 2019, which has been called a “social outbreak” without factual evidence and without any element that would make one think that the constitutional reform was indeed its main demand; the paralysis of the right-wing government of Sebastian Pinera gave fuel, in those days, to believe that the fall of the Constitution was a way to channel the recovery of politics over violence. There are reasons to think that, more than the Constitution, it was the closures of covid-19 that retracted the revolutionary spirit. In short: there is much to study. But the specter of that uncontrolled and destructive revolt has haunted Chile’s political imagination for two years. At its climax the Convention was elected and, later, the Boric Government.

The majority figures achieved by the latter (despite losing the first round) have liquefied in less than six months, partly due to his bear hug with the Convention, and partly also due to a management to say the least equivocal, plagued of stumbles and apologies and dominated by an exaggerated generational feeling. The Government of a 36-year-old president is an extraordinary novelty in Chile —and Boric has enjoyed that paternalistic benevolence—, but it is not a blank check to make beginners’ mistakes, neither in decisions, nor in concepts nor in the historical perspective.

The opposition reminded the president of these limits on the same Sunday night, when he rejected an invitation to start the dialogue on the condition that there be a change in the cabinet of ministers beforehand. This is one of the valves that characterizes a presidential regime when a defeat of the magnitude of Sunday’s occurs. President Boric, despite his many sovereign powers, is obliged to open it if he wants to secure the goodwill of Congress to initiate a new constitutional process.

Neither the self-affirmation of the president nor the oppositional condition can last long. As has been repeated to excess in the hours after the final results, the country has spoken out for moderation, not for stagnation.

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Source: EL PAIS

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