This September 4, the plebiscite on the proposal for a new constitution for the country was held in Chile.
According to information from the Chilean Electoral Service (SERVEL), with 99.99% of the tables counted, the rejection was imposed with 62% of the votes, equivalent to 7,859,838 votes, while the approval was 4,824. .048 votes, corresponding to 38%.
This past Sunday the elections were held with new electoral rules. For the first time with a universal voter census1, voting was mandatory (under penalty of a fine of up to 180,000 pesos, about 190 dollars). Thus, out of a universal electoral register (without prior registration requirements) of 15,173,857 voters, a total of 13,011,835 Chilean men and women went to the polls, which is equivalent to 85.7%. This figure represents an increase in the participation of almost 4.7 million voters compared to any previous vote held in the country.
Since the electoral reform of 2012 that facilitated the automatic registration in the census of all citizens over 18 years of age (incorporating more than four million Chileans not registered to date), electoral processes have followed one another ─with the complete census─ in which 50% participation was never exceeded. The constituent process itself, initiated as a consequence of the social outbreak of October 2019, brought only 51% of Chileans to the polls on October 25, 2020 (7.5 million). On that occasion, an overwhelming majority, 78% (5.85 million) voted in favor of initiating the constituent process. A year later, on December 19, with a historic turnout of 55.7% (8.3 million votes), Gabriel Boric took victory, surpassing the 50% turnout for the first time.
The vote of approval is Boric’s vote. Indeed, the approval results (4.8 million) are astonishingly similar to the results of Gabriel Boric in the second electoral round (4.6 million). If we stop at these figures, in the three most populated regions the coincidence is maintained:
Metropolitan Region: Boric 2.1 million, Approve 2.2 million.
Valparaiso: Boric 545 thousand votes, I approve 583 thousand votes.
O´Higgins: Boric 252 thousand votes, I approve 244 thousand votes.
The difference between both figures is 5% for the Metropolitan Region, 4.6% for Valparaiso and 1.5% for O’Higgins.
The fate of the new voters:
Metropolitan region. Increase in participation between the second presidential round and the plebiscite: 1,487,000 votes. If we discount the votes for Kast in the second round, the right (the Rejection) obtained 1,377,000 new votes.
Valparaiso. Increase in participation between the second presidential round and the plebiscite: 1,487,000 votes. If we discount Kast’s votes in the second round, the right (the Rejection) obtained 418 thousand new votes.
O’Higgins. Increase in participation between the second presidential round and the plebiscite: 266,000 votes. If we discount the votes for Kast in the second round, the right (the Rejection) obtained 278,000 new votes.
Some readings and projections
In line with the projections of the pollsters, and as an effect of the misinformation and misrepresentation campaign, Rejection prevailed over Approval, with the proposed text being rejected and the Pinochet constitution in force, as indicated in the 2019 political agreement.
This result was supported by an intense media agenda against the result of the Convention, where ample space was given to those who spoke for the Rejection to spread extreme interpretations of the proposed articles. To this is added the strong economic investment of the establishment, the distribution of unofficial texts of the New Constitution with typography and design similar to the official one and the narrative of “Rejection for Love” (oxymoron) or “If it is bad, it is bad”, without using articles or substantive criticism of the text, among other factors.
The broad political spectrum that called for a Rejection vote was also relevant. This ranged from the extreme right (José Antonio Kast gave his support at the last minute, but his parliamentarians were there from the beginning), to figures from the former Concertación who previously bordered on the center-left, including constituents from both villages actively supporting the the proposal was rejected (the ambiguity of former President Lagos would fall into this group).
On the other hand, it should be remembered that at first the Boric administration tried to separate itself from the Convention with the idea of not being dragged down by a possible unfavorable result. This drag is, however, inevitable, so it is to be expected that the instability and questioning of the Government, which had already been losing support, would seriously deepen.
In light of the results, it seems evident that the vast majority of non-regular suffragists who joined the vote did so for Rejection.
This result gives the right and the former Coalition a space to rearm after five years adrift. Both blocks promised from reforms to a new constituent process, now with the leading role of parliamentarism, academia and experts, closing the space to social representation and indigenous peoples as was the previous process. In any case, the leadership of the Government to champion the process is considerably reduced to direct a possible new process.
The transformative agenda will be severely limited, its political momentum curtailed.
The government’s loss of legitimacy could fracture the complex coalition that supports it, particularly the faction of the former Concertación whose independent figures are part of the cabinet. Although an immediate split from the Socialist Party (PS) does not seem foreseeable, an internal division is likely between factions that want to continue in a damaged government and others that could directly withdraw support for the president, a scenario to which the Party for the Democracy (PPD), whose minister was recently dismissed.
Second, the parliamentary scenario becomes more complex, blocking the legislative agenda. Currently, in the Senate, 22 of its 50 members are senators from the governing coalition. Besides, we found 2 independents close to the former Concertación and 2 from the Christian Democracy (DC). For its part, the right has 25 in this House (including the Republican Party senator from Kast).
In the Lower House, of the 155 seats, 65 are from the Government, which needs the DC seats to reach 74 votes and the dissolved Ciudadanos. Close but distant are the Humanist Party and the Green Ecologist and the independent Carlos Bianchi, with whom they could help reach 80 representatives. In dispute are the 7 seats that add up to the United Center (1) and the People’s Party (Parisi, with 6). The right, counting the previous government and Kast’s party, has 68 deputies.
Possible fluctuations in the votes of the Christian Democracy in both Houses would imply that the bills that are processed will have many difficulties to progress, remembering that the laws must be approved in general by a simple majority in both Houses.
Thirdly, derived from the above, the first challenge ─and perhaps the next blow─ that the Government will have to face in this context will be the approval of the Budget Law, whose project must be presented by the President of the Republic to Congress National, at least three months prior to the date on which it should come into force, and which must have the majority of both Houses for its approval.
Impeachment of the president and his cabinet?
Although the legislative agenda seems committed to this relationship of forces, the possibility of revoking the president is limited. In the current Constitution there is only one figure through which this effect could be achieved; We are talking about constitutional accusation, based on article 52.2.a. According to this article, a group with not less than ten and not more than twenty members of Congress may file accusations against the President of the Republic for acts of his administration that have seriously compromised the honor or security of the Nation, or openly violated the Constitution or the laws, requiring the vote of the absolute majority for its processing. If this proceeds, it would be the Senate, who by a two-thirds majority (34 senators) will decide as a jury and will limit itself to declaring whether or not the accused is guilty of the crime, infraction or abuse of power imputed to him. Even in the case of a loss of alliances in which the right wing wins the majority in Congress, it is quite unlikely that the necessary 2/3 will be obtained in the Senate, not to mention that the grounds that would justify the accusation seem, priori, difficult to adapt.
However, there is also the possibility of filing this constitutional accusation against ministers (article 52.2.b) and in this case it is only necessary to have a simple majority in Congress and an absolute majority in the Senate, expanding the assumptions of application to the following: having seriously compromised the honor or security of the Nation; break the Constitution or the laws or have left them without execution; and for the crimes of treason, concussion, embezzlement of public funds and bribery. These majorities are not so difficult to achieve, the most complicated being the adaptation to the assumptions of fact of application.
Finally, on a Latin American scale, the impact of this defeat could be significant, mainly for Peru, a country that saw in the Chilean case a guarantee to sustain a constituent process as a way out of its instability. For the rest of the region, and the world, it is also a disappointment, since hopes were pinned on picking up the Chilean project as a frame of reference for progressive reforms.
Disclaimer: Via Telesur – Translated by RJ983
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