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Chile begins to draft the “beautiful challenge” of a new constitution | Political News

Santiago, Chile- A general sense of anticipation hangs over Chile as the country’s new Elected constitutional assembly It will open on Sunday.

The parliament-made up of the country’s broad and diverse population-is tasked with drafting a new constitution that will lead the country into the next few decades.Many people call it like this A historic moment; This is the first time in Chile’s history that individuals have been elected and asked to draft a constitution.

But the conference reflects a heavily polarized country. Experts say that there are many challenges ahead, the most notable of which is the need to build trust among voters with different ideologies.

“We have always known that the situation will be severe and even hostile. But this is normal because many lawmakers see the constitutional process as a moment to repay the historical debts of every marginalized group,” said Adolfo Ibanez University Lawyer and professor Cristobal Bellorio said he failed to run for a seat. In the convention.

“But I hope that when the time comes to reach an agreement, the trust between the three parties will prevail.”

New political system

in May election In order to select members of the Constituent Assembly, conservatives only won 37 of the 155 seats, basically depriving them of their ability to veto the results of the new Magna Carta. Chile’s current right-leaning government does not believe in the need to formulate a new constitution to replace the current constitution under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s.

But the status quo no longer applies to many of Chile’s nearly 19 million citizens, and the social uprising in October 2019 forced the country’s elite to agree to a different system, thus forming a constitutional convention.

At least 77 elected voters, or about 50% of the total, are in favor of policies to end the auxiliary role of the state and its neoliberal economic model, which has excluded the poor and the middle class for decades.

These ingredients It is seeking to strengthen the rights of labor and women and to abolish the pension system. The current private pension system established during Pinochet’s time forced workers to deposit their retirement savings into personal accounts managed by private entities.

Chileans also require their voters to promote good public health and education rights, equal rights for women, non-discrimination for minorities, and viable environmental regulations.

But Guillermo Laren, an economist and author of “The Stability of the Chilean Social Contract,” says that people should not expect miracles. “The new constitution will change the structure, but not necessarily the behavior. At least in the short term, it is hard to imagine that Chile will become a paradise for equality and tolerance,” Laland told Al Jazeera.

“The main task of the Constituent Assembly is to define a new political system for Chile to improve the representation of citizens and the governance of those in power,” he added.

first step

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, 155 elected voters will hold their first meeting on Sunday in an open-air tent in the former National Assembly building in San Diego.

Their supporters will accompany them on foot. The government authorities stated that if the demonstrations remain peaceful, the police will not intervene.

The Mapuche, with a population of nearly 2 million in Chile, will hold a ceremony on the top of Huelen Mountain before the meeting, where the Spanish established Santiago, a 10-minute walk to the former site of the National Assembly.

Large screens will also be placed in different locations near the General Assembly building to allow people to watch the progress of the meeting.

In their first action, voters will choose a president and vice president, and decide on the rules that will be retained during the one-year term of the assembly. As the presidential election is scheduled to be held in November, the parliament will complete its mission after the new government takes power.

The new constitution is expected to be submitted to a referendum in 2022.

Inside the former Congress building, you can see a screen with “Constitutional Convention”, where Santiago will formulate the new Chilean Constitution [Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Controversy, tension

However, because the government of the outgoing President Sebastian Pinera refused to consider the indigenous people who have 17 reserved seats in Parliament to express their request in their own language, before the inauguration meeting on Sunday There was some controversy over the past week. During the meeting.

The government also stated that it does not intend to participate in the opening ceremony.

Although many conservative voters have openly expressed their desire for dialogue, they remain silent on most hot issues, including so-called political prisoners on the left. More than 11,300 people were arrested and more than 2,500 detained Social uprising According to the Chilean Institute of Human Rights, between October 2019 and March 2020. The government systematically denies the existence of political prisoners in the country.

The conservative members of the parliament also tried to distance themselves from the Piñera government. Who is not welcomeAl Jazeera contacted five conservative voters, but all declined interview requests.

At the same time, some define themselves as “Non-neutral independent“-They formed an important center-left group-said that they “will not follow the orders of political parties, nor will they follow the instructions of any government or parliamentarians, nor will they follow any pressure groups aimed at promoting the constitutional process. Intervention”.

Since the parliament is composed of members who hold such a broad ideology, it is necessary not only to build trust among voters, but also to build trust with the Chilean people.

“One of the biggest challenges facing this conference is to learn to cooperate, understand each other, and remove the barriers of distrust and fear. We must remove the logic that you are a traitor if you are not with me,” actress and independent member Malucha Pinto said.

“We must understand that we are facing new things that we have not practiced. As a country, we are also facing huge and beautiful challenges in the future.”



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