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On September 4, after almost three years of an unprecedented and complex process, some fifteen million Chileans will be able to go to the polls and decide in a referendum whether to Approve or Reject the text of a new Constitution, the first in the history of Chile drafted in democracy, generated in a Constitutional Convention composed entirely of delegates elected by popular vote, composed for the first time in the world with gender parity, with seats reserved for indigenous peoples and in consultation with the participation of social organizations and civil society.
Big business and their media, together with the right-wing, launched a real campaign of terror to defend their privileges, which was joined even by sectors of the so-called "center-left," among them figures of the Christian Democracy, that is, the elites, what in Chile they call "the party of order," united against the new constitution.
For this reason, on August 11, less than a month before the constitutional plebiscite, the ruling leftist coalition Apruebo Dignidad and the center-left Democratic Socialism bloc decided to put their disputes aside. Their leaders locked themselves in a room and carried out an intense day behind closed doors, without the participation of any representative of the Government (which by law must remain neutral). After several hours, white smoke was released and they reached the expected agreement, which sought to motivate the supposed great mass of undecided to vote "I approve."
For the right wing and a large part of the Rejectionist group, one of the major problems of the constitutional proposal is its "excessive indigenism". They claim that the Convention, which had 17 indigenous convention members elected with the tool of reserved seats, privileged too much the faculties of the native peoples and criticized, for example, the creation of the Indigenous Legal System.
This supposed "indigenism" accused by the right-wing was one of the matters that the agreement proposed to review if it won approval. Progressivism committed itself to modify the articles of the Indigenous Legal System to clarify that these will be voluntary tribunals used only to settle some specific disputes among the same people and does not mean that there will be a parallel justice system for the common Chileans.
Likewise, the parties agreed to review the provisions related to the territorial autonomy of the native peoples, so that it is not understood that this will go against the principle of unity and indivisibility of the State of Chile.
Another of the doubts of those who do not want to adopt the new constitutional text is that it does not include any provision for governments to decree a constitutional state of emergency exception that allows the deployment of the Armed Forces in cases of security crisis. This was very controversial, since President Gabriel Boric himself is currently using this tool to contain the arson attacks affecting the southern part of the country. The leftist agreement proposes to integrate this measure to the text after the plebiscite.
A fake news that was circulating for many months in WhatsApp and Twitter, promoted mainly by the ultra-right, was that if the new Constitution was approved, people would not be owners of their houses and that the State would be the owner of all real estate. Although this is not enshrined in any article of the text, many believe that this idea managed to permeate a certain part of the population. The progressives agreed to make it explicit that housing ownership is guaranteed.
The articles related to the old age pension system, the health system, the educational system and the judicial system will also be reviewed, and the provision allowing consecutive presidential reelection will be eliminated, a point that generated a stir even among some supporters of Apruebo.
The only point on which the left could not reach agreement was the issue of the elimination of the Senate. The new Constitution proposes to replace the upper chamber with a body called the Chamber of Regions, with different functions from the current Senate. For a part of the opposition, the elimination of the Senate was a strategy of the Convention members close to the ruling party to favor the Government, which today does not have a parliamentary majority in this body and could eventually obtain it for a new election of the Chamber of Regions. In addition, the right wing says that a counterweight for the Chamber of Deputies will be eliminated.
The only thing the left could not agree on was the issue of the elimination of the Senate. The new Constitution proposes to replace the upper chamber with a body called the Chamber of Regions, with different functions from the current Senate. For a part of the opposition, the elimination of the Senate was a strategy of the Convention members close to the ruling party to favor the Government, which today does not have a parliamentary majority in this body and could eventually obtain it for a new election of the Chamber of Regions. In addition, the right-wing says that a counterweight for the Chamber of Deputies will be eliminated.
What about the mechanism? The proposed Constitution establishes a system to modify the text once it comes into force. The norm establishes that the National Congress can reform the Magna Carta with projects that need 4/7 of the votes in favor to be approved. However, if that reform contemplates modifying an article that affects the political system of the country, the form of the State, the fundamental rights, or the chapters related to nature and the environment, a national referendum must be called.
The constitutional plebiscite will be held on September 4 and more than 15 million people are eligible to vote. The vote will be mandatory for the first time in more than a decade and two options will appear on the ballot: I approve, to adopt the new text drafted by the Constitutional Convention, and I reject, to discard it.