By Andrea Aguilar Cordoba
SANTIAGO DE CHILE, Chile (AA) - More than 14 million Chileans will go to the polls April 26 determine the idea of creating a new Constitution.
The vote has been compared to the historic plebiscite of 1988 in which Chileans voted “No” to the continuity of Gen. Augusto Pinochet and marked the end of his dictatorship that afflicted the country for 17 years.
Chilean law states that in the plebiscites, the government assumes a position and the parties that adopt it campaign with the executive, while the opposition will be designated with half of the time to explain its choice.
But unlike the plebiscite 32 years ago, Sebastian Pinera’s government decided not to participate and stay away from the discussion in televised coverage. He gave 100% of the time to other political parties.
Three months before the plebiscite, the camps started to be formed. The Command Worthy Chile, composed of left-wing parties and the Mapuche indigenous community, launched its proposal for approval, while the right wing, mostly, began to organize support for the rejection option.
“All our causes and struggles had a common challenge: to change the political, economic, social and cultural model inherited from the dictatorship, which in these years of restricted democracy has only impoverished and violate us as people,” says a manifesto of the Command Worthy Chile.
President of the Social Green Regionalist Federation (FREVS) Party, Jaime Mulet, who composes the command, told Anadolu Agency there are symbolic reasons that make a new Constitution necessary. “The Constitution of the 80s was made in full dictatorship, under a regime of repression without electoral records, it is invalid in its origin. Apart from the symbolic, the Constitution appoints to a certain economic regime that we have called an exacerbated neoliberal regime.”
Mulet points out that the “Yes” campaign aims to get to those who still have doubts about the process, so that they are convinced of the approval of the plebiscite and hopefully it would put an end to a Constitution “that has established a regime of brutal inequality in Chile”.
For the former presidential candidate and referent of the Chilean extreme right, Jose Antonio Kast, leader of the Republican Party, a new Constitution is not necessary because the current one has been modified several times.
“Our Constitution has given progress and stability to Chile and we do not agree that it should be thrown away and exchanged for a blank sheet. It is not acceptable that, through blackmail, a constitutional re-foundation be imposed on us.”
Kast says that a new Constitution is synonymous with uncertainty and political fights. “Here there will be no new faces or organized civil society: it will be the same old politicians who will be chosen to share power and set their ideological priorities. In exchange for? Of violence and economic unrest that the poorest will pay,” he told Anadolu Agency.
However, he says they will carry out a campaign “with joy and unity” to which they expect many to join. "Coordinate to make a proactive campaign that highlights the good things of the Constitution and adequately outlines the risks that exist in this process," concluded the leader of the Republican Party.
On Nov. 15, different political parties signed a document where the parameters for the constitutional process were established and guarantees were given to carry out the plebiscite April 26.
"It is a historical and foundational milestone of a new democracy because, from that agreement, a majority in the Chilean political spectrum, an itinerary of different electoral acts is built that will conclude with a new Constitution for Chile," said socialist deputy Leonardo Soto, who was part of the signatories to the agreement.
If the “Yes “wins, there are two mechanisms: a mixed constitutional convention that will consist of 86 parliamentarians and 86 elected citizens in the current parliamentary electoral system. The second option is a 100% constitutional convention, with 155 elected citizens in the same 28 districts that have different seats, depending on their territory.
Analysts agree that the important thing about the campaign is that both parties know how to explain how from their position and solutions can be given to the conflicts that citizens express today and not to bet on confrontational speeches or generating insecurities.
“Both of them have the opportunity to show that, although this mess changed the attitude of politicians, changes can be made with the current system through Congress and quickly. And the others have the alternative of bringing together the majority of Chileans in the option to approve the new Constitution and make profound changes, ”said electoral expert Tomas Fuentes.
It is uncertain how much Chile will change in the event a new Constitution is approved, which, beyond the symbolism of leaving behind a document made in dictatorship, prioritizes the needs of the millions of people who marched last year and who promised to continue to do it "until dignity becomes custom."
*Daniela Mendoza and Juan Velez contributed to the story