President Sebastián Piñera yesterday enacted a law that will allow the realization in April of a plebiscite in which Chileans will decide whether to change the Constitution inherited from the military dictatorship in the midst of the greatest social outbreak in times of democracy.
In a ceremony at the La Moneda palace, Piñera stressed that the plebiscite, set for April 26 and will be the first in 30 years, “should serve to leave behind the violence and divisions that we have seen resurface with pain and sadness during these days”.
The plebiscite was made possible by the pressure in the streets that followed a violent social outbreak on October 18 and forced the official and opposition political parties to sign an unprecedented agreement that resulted in two-thirds of Congress passing last week. constitutional reform project and that was translated into the law promulgated by Piñera.
The president – who before the crisis rejected the possibility of a new Constitution and that only favoured some reforms – said: “Today, for the first time, we have the opportunity to achieve a great constitutional agreement with complete freedom and in full democracy citizen participation and with equal participation of women.”
The current constitution was written by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and adopted in 1980 when in Chile the political parties had been dissolved, there were no electoral records nor were they allowed to express themselves to the political opposition, which was severely repressed after the bloody military coup of September 1973.
In April, Chileans, in addition to voting on whether or not they want a new Constitution, will vote if the new Magna Carta will be written by a Constituent Convention, composed only of elected members, or by a mixed convention, consisting of elected and parliamentary members in office.
The constitutional reform promulgated yesterday also establishes that, in case of winning the option of a new Constitution, there will be another referendum in which Chileans will vote if they approve or reject the new Magna Carta drafted by the constituents, within one year. In the Congress an opposition project is debated, supported by several official legislators, that proposes that the constitutional convention be formed by an equal number of men and women, that assures seats for native peoples and that grants the same electoral campaign facilities to the political parties and the independents.
Various surveys and analysts estimate that the vote of Chileans will be much higher than the 46.6 percent who participated in the 2017 presidential elections, won by Piñera and that the majority prefers that the Constitution be drafted by a convention composed only of elected members.