A new Chile’: political elite rejected in vote for constitutional assembly
By John Bartlett -The Guardian
Victories for leftist
and independent candidates over rightwingers paves the way for a long-awaited
Chile’s established political elite has been roundly
rejected at the polls six months ahead of a pivotal presidential election, as
the country turned to a progressive new generation to write the next chapter in
Resounding victories for leftist and independent candidates
saw rightwing politicians crash to dismal electoral defeats alongside those
with links to Chile’s transition to democracy.
People also voted for regional governors for the first time
ever, as well as for councillors and mayors – with candidates backed by
president Sebastián Piñera’s Chile Vamos coalition faring poorly in each case.
Crucially, with the government coalition’s list securing
only 37 seats in the assembly, Chile’s traditional right-wing fell well short
of the one-third bloc it had targeted to obstruct the inclusion of progressive
articles the constitution.
Each bill must be approved by two-thirds of the assembly to
be included in the document.
“Many people are saying that yesterday was the day that the
transition to democracy finally reached its conclusion,” said Verónica Figueroa
Huencho, an academic at the University of Chile’s school of public affairs.
“The participation of indigenous peoples and independent
candidates in a gender-equal constitutional assembly is a launchpad for a new
The 155-member assembly will include 47 independent
candidates and 17 representing the country’s 10 indigenous groups, whose
participation was guaranteed for the first time in Chile.
Gender parity had been assured before the vote took place –
for the first time ever in a national constitutional project – yet female
candidates performed so well that the eventual adjustment ended up favouring
In late 2019, a mass protest movement exploded in Chile,
targeting the country’s insulated and disconnected political elite as well
inequalities engendered by the dictatorship’s economic model. From the mass of
demands that arose from the demonstrations, a constitutional referendum was
scheduled as political parties’ response to the crisis.
As people gathered in Plaza Italia in Santiago that night,
dubbed Plaza Dignidad as it became the centre of the protest movement, the word
“Reborn” was projected triumphantly onto a nearby building – but the
rejuvenation of the political landscape was only finalised when Chileans came
to vote this weekend.
Candidates who stoked the sentiments of the protests
performed strongly, as did those without the baggage of political affiliation.
“This weekend we have seen the categorical rejection of the
constitution and the political culture it fomented,” said Fernando Atria, a law
professor who has campaigned in favour of writing a new constitution and was
elected to the assembly over the weekend.
“The current constitution was designed to prevent
transformation and progress, but our role now is to create a new political
system that is capable of responding to the demands of the people.”
Candidates backed by the government also did poorly in local
elections, losing important mayorships and failing to force their way into
In an address from the presidential palace on Sunday night,
Piñera recognised that Chile’s “traditional political forces” were “not in tune
with people’s demands”.
“This is the triumph of social and political unity,”
declared Santiago’s mayor-elect, Irací Hassler, in the city’s Plaza de Armas,
flanked by several of the women who won their elections.
“This is the beginning
of a significant change in the way we do politics. The protest movement,
feminist strikes and socio-environmental movements are here to stay.”
Hassler usurped incumbent Felipe Alessandri, who was running
for a second term backed by Piñera’s coalition, to claim the district in the
heart of the capital for Chile’s Communist party.
A period of solemn introspection has begun for the country’s
traditional political parties, including debate over potential presidential
However, the Frente Amplio, Chile’s main opposition
coalition which had only recently fragmented and seen doubt cast over its
future, managed to perform strongly.
Its presidential candidate, Gabriel Boric, a veteran of
Chile’s 2011 education protests, profited from the rush of optimism that
accompanied the vote to collect the signatures required to register his
candidacy on Monday.
Chileans will vote in presidential and congressional
elections in November this year.
Meanwhile, the constitutional assembly will have a maximum
of 12 months to draft a new constitution, which will be ratified at the
conclusion of the process by a plebiscite in which voting will be compulsory.
vote takes place, the 1980 constitution will remain in force. Tue 18 May