Chileans will vote in a little over a month on a new constitution that would bring the most sweeping changes to the country since the end of the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship.
The proposed text focuses on social rights, the environment and gender parity, representing a sharp shift from the current 1980 constitution written during Pinochet’s prime that focuses on private rights and free market principles.
The proposed new text was written by a 154-member body elected through a popular vote, the first time in Chile’s history a constitution was drafted democratically.
The process started after violent protests against inequality rocked the world’s top copper producer in 2019 and tarnished Chile’s image as an oasis of stability in Latin America.
These are some of the changes the proposed 388-article constitution, completed in early July, would make.
Political system and laws
* The president remains the head of the government, but would share the power to submit laws that involve public spending with legislators, something currently exclusive to the president.
* The president could be re-elected consecutively once. Chile’s president’s can currently only be re-elected non-consecutively.
* Congress, which is a bicameral body with equal powers, would become an “asymmetric” one. The current Chamber of Deputies would retain its legislative functions while the Senate would be scaled back to a Chamber of Regions with limited powers and a focus on laws with a regional scope.
* Direct democracy mechanisms like popular law initiatives and citizen consultations would become routine.
* The Chamber of Deputies will need a simple majority to modify or repeal certain laws, down from a maximum of two-thirds. Changes to autonomous entities like the central bank will still require a supermajority.
* The proposed constitution would guarantee a wider slate of social rights – a key demand during the violent 2019 protests – including housing, social security, health, work and access to food.
* The current constitution has one article regarding the environment while the proposal has dedicated an entire chapter to it, stating that “nature has rights” and that animals are “subjects of special protection.”
* Fighting climate change would be a state duty as would be protecting biodiversity, native species and natural spaces.
* Wetlands are protected and glaciers are not explicitly protected in the current constitution, but would be “excluded from any mining activity” in the new proposal. Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and one of the top lithium producers.
* Water would be classified as a “non-appropriable” in the new text, in contrast with the current constitution, which allows for private rights.
* State bodies and public companies, among other entities, must have gender parity.
* The state must take measures to eradicate and punish gender violence.
* The proposal says every person is entitled to sexual and reproductive rights, including the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, but leaves specifics regarding abortion up to future laws. Abortion in Chile is currently legal only in cases that involve rape, unviable pregnancies or when the mother’s life is in danger.
* The state must “respect, promote, protect and guarantee” self-determination, collective and individual rights, and participation of indigenous groups.
* The text guarantees “the right of indigenous peoples and nations to their lands, territories and resources”, reserves seats in representative bodies and establishes that groups must be consulted in matters that affect their rights.
* The new constitution would establish parallel justice systems for indigenous groups, but the country’s supreme court will still have the final say.