Today, the progressive former student leader Gabriel Boric was sworn in as new president of Chile. The profound change in the Latin American country is amplified by the ongoing process of the rewriting of its constitution.
For more information of the constitutional process in Chile in a comparative perspective, watch the recording of the panel Constituting Democracies below.
The last 3 years have been vertiginous in Chile. We have experienced two moments of exceptionality: a massive popular revolt, and a pandemic that has hit the state, companies, the economy, politics and our daily lives.
These two processes occurred almost simultaneously and, as they developed, politics was forced to make decisions. The forces of change have not been the exception and, without being in government or having a parliamentary majority, they have had to make their way in this climate where all institutions lose credibility: the parliament, the government, the army, the police force, the church, the media, big business.
In this sense, since the beginning of the massive protests in October 2019, the Broad Front (Frente Amplio), a left-wing political coalition founded in 2017, has opted to channel the demands and desires for transformation to get out of the current crisis and re-establish politics as a tool that changes people’s lives. That conviction was the basis for signing the agreement of November 2019 which made possible the institutional opening of the constituent process that had already begun in the streets. The agreement stipulated that a referendum would be held to give Chileans the opportunity to approve or reject the drafting of a new constitution and the mechanism through which it was to be drafted.
With that same impetus, the approval of a new constitution was won in the plebiscite and the subsequent election of the representatives to the Constitutional Convention, where the right was greatly diminished and without the possibility of a veto.
All these advances were achieved through considerable participation by citizens and social movements, both in the plebiscite campaign and also raising various lists of independents with very good results in the Convention. This whole climate was one of change and dismissal at the same time, which made it extremely difficult to articulate actors, prepare programmatic proposals and clearly outline the direction that the future of Chile would be ideologically inclined to take.
This was the scenario in which the candidacy of Gabriel Boric was raised, with a deep conviction of projecting a proposal for a country that was collective and convening, and that would overcome the atomization and disarticulation present at that time. The Broad Front in these 3 vertiginous years had made a concerted effort to go from criticism and negativity to positivity.
Many factors played a role in Gabriel Boric’s triumph, but without a doubt it is a sign of the clear will of the Chilean people for change and a defence of what is achieved. For many, the far-right candidate José Antonio Kast represented a significant risk of a setback for advanced rights and freedoms, and the combination of factors caused an overflow of the campaign itself during the second round, both at the territorial and digital levels. With creativity and optimism the numerous citizens active in the campaign managed to disarm the constant fake news attacks raised by the political right and the right-wing media. Gabriel Boric’s victory is historic: he is the most voted president of the return to democracy; he has secured the biggest vote since the return to democracy and he is the youngest president in the history of Chile.
But let’s not cry out victory: at a time when the leftist forces are not only playing for a government, they are also playing for the possibility of getting the institutions, the economy and healthcare in our country out of the inertia and crisis produced after years of a state administration with a neoliberal outlook, which has excluded the majority of the population from the benefits of development. All this, in the midst of the global crisis caused by COVID-19 and the climate crisis that is already abruptly affecting our country. This means that we are at risk of a whole cycle of government changes which further increases the importance of the successful development of the Convention, despite the boycott it had during its initial period under the government of Sebastián Piñera.
We are in a moment of transition between the old constitution and its form of state and the new constitution that will be the unlocking and necessary push to carry out the changes and transformations that allow us to build a future in tranquillity and certainty.
Watch the full recording of the final panel of the international Conference Constituting Democracies on constituent experiences and constituional processes.
Spanish with English subtitles
Alberto Acosta, economist and former President of the National Constituent Assembly of Ecuador and Minister of Energy and Mines in the government of Rafael Correa
Fernando Atria, Constitutional Convention of Chile
Marga Ferré, Co-President of transform! europe
Javiera Toro, Director of the Nodo XXI Foundation
Tomás Cristi, foundation Viva Democracia
The international conference Constituting Democracies brought together politicians, writers, and social scientists from all over Latin America and Europe to discuss on constituent processes, the emergence of neo-fascism, art and politics, plurinationality, geopolitics, climate crisis and fake news, and other topical issues.
For further information on the conference, click here (website of transform! europe’s Spanish observer organisation