The Chilean Constituent Assembly

Image: Hugo Fuentes
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By ESTER GAMMARDELLA RIZZI*

A dive into this very unique and special historical moment that is the process of formulating the new Constitution of Chile

On November 15, 2019, the absolute majority of Chilean parties represented in its National Congress decided to convene a Constituent Convention to draft a new Constitution for the country. although the I agree for Social Peace and the New Constitution although it was elaborated by the traditional Chilean political forces, its origin was far from the ties and the official building of the National Congress, in Valparaíso.

If Chile today is in the midst of the constituent process, which was not possible to foresee before the so-called social outbreak, it was because a massive and persistent popular uprising took first Santiago and then the country in October 2019 and persisted with great intensity until the November 15 agreement, which offered an institutional way out of the great social malaise that was being demonstrated in the streets.

This text is the first in a series of four. In it, a small presentation of who writes and how I arrived in Chile in this 2022. In the next three texts I intend to present background of the Chilean Constitutional Convention, form of election of members and political composition and, finally, challenges until the end of the constituent period. All seasoned with information and perceptions from the interviews and observations I've been doing around here.

I've been in Chile for four days. In preparation for the trip, I wrote many emails to people at Chilean universities, to some political and social movement contacts that I managed to get. I received a kind response from what would be one of my interviewees: “I'm glad that you can finally come to Chile to absorb the constitutional process we're going through”, wrote Dan Israel, a Chilean doctoral student affiliated with Yale University and mentor of Owen Fiss.

“soak myself”. The dictionary says the best translation would be just "absorb". But in Portuguese, absorb is not used as a reflexive verb. I kept thinking, along with Thais Pavez, that a good translation might be to get drunk, get drunk with, or even immerse myself in the Chilean constitutional process. The days here have been like this: a dive into this unique and special historical moment.

Due to health protocols to prevent Covid-19, there are major restrictions on access to the work of the Constitutional Convention. Not even advisors conventional are able to enter the building of the former Chilean National Congress, in the center of Santiago, where the meetings of the Plenary and of the thematic commissions are taking place.

Thus, it was with surprise and great joy that I received, on the same day I arrived in Chile, authorization for free access to the building during my academic stay. With this authorization, I am able to closely monitor the commissions, which are now starting the deliberation phase of numerous initiatives prepared by the members of the convention and also through a popular participatory process. This start of deliberations is not simple, after all there are many political groups represented at the convention, including many independents. About the form of election for the Constitutional Convention and its special composition, I will speak in the third text of this series. It has been a privilege to see these political dynamics unfold up close.

Since 2008, I have studied sociopolitical processes that led to changes in the Constitution. Germany 1918-19 and the Weimar Constitution; Mexican Revolution 1910-1917 and the Mexican Constitution of 1917, the first to guarantee social rights in the world. Furthermore, as a professor of Constitutional Law in the Public Policy Management course at EACH and interested in the history of my country, I closely studied the 1987-88 Constituent Assembly in Brazil.

And behold, here in one of our neighbors in South America, Chile begins a constituent process. It was UFABC professor Carolina Stuchi who, still in 2020, drew my attention to the convening of the Constitutional Convention. And not just any convention, but rather one that, right from the beginning, from the electoral process, brought several and important innovations: (1) parity, with an equal number of men and women among the 155 members of the convention (with adjustment of a chair , because of the odd number); (2) with 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples; (3) carried out by district lists, with no requirement of party affiliation for candidacies (which resulted in a large number of elected independents). In addition, parity should also be reflected in all committees within the convention.

Since the first semester of 2021, I have been preparing for the academic stay that is taking place now, in February 2022. During most of this period, I shared my recent enthusiasm for Chile with Joana Salem, whom Chile had already conquered a long time before. . In the next texts, I will tell you a little about the first impressions of what is happening here.

The Chilean Constitutional Convention “summons me” to study it, to use another great expression from “hispanohablantes”.

*Ester Gammardella Rizzi is a professor of the Public Policy Management course at EACH-USP.

Originally published in the magazine Counsel.

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