Defeat for the right may presage real change in Chile

By Ruben Figueroa

Santiago, May 17 (EFE).- The poor performance by right-wing parties in last weekend’s elections for an assembly to draft a new constitution creates possibilities for deep structural change in Chile.

The rightist bloc, largely made up of the parties in President Sebastian Piñera’s ruling coalition, won only 37 of the 155 seats in the body.

When the assembly convenes in late June or early July, the 48 independents will be the largest group, followed by the left (28) and center-left (25).

Another 17 seats will be occupied by representatives of Chile’s indigenous people.

Given that most of the independents have expressed progressive views, no one would be surprised to see them work with the left, center-left and indigenous delegates toward a new charter that favors social justice, women’s rights and the environment.

Santiago resident Marcela Acevedo told Efe Monday that she expected favorable results from “the eruption of the independents.”

“We don’t want the same people as always and that can be seen reflected in the voting,” she said.

Another inhabitant of the capital, Fernando Gomez, said he hoped to see the constituent assembly conduct its business in a “focused and calm way” to make possible the “deeper changes that Chile is seeking.”

Under the rules governing the process, each proposed article of the new constitution must be approved by a super-majority of two-thirds of the delegates.

That requirement is likely to make complex, many-sided negotiations the rule for the assembly, which is supposed to begin work by the start of July.

“A constitution does not have to be of the left, it has to be a constitution that represents the majority of Chileans,” attorney Daniel Stingo, the largest vote-getter among the delegates, said after the results were announced.

Though he is a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution party, Stingo ran for the constituent assembly as an independent.

The convention has 12 months to draft a constitution that will then be submitted for approval by voters in a referendum sometime in 2022.

But before a single article has been proposed, the Chilean investor class has cast a massive vote of no-confidence in the process.

The Santiago stock market’s benchmark index plunged 9.6 percent within minutes of the start of trading on Monday, while the value of the peso experienced its biggest drop against the dollar since November 2019, when the nationwide protests that ultimately forced the Piñera government to open the door to the constitutional convention were at their peak. EFE


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