Society

Elisa Loncón, an indigenous woman, will preside over the body that will create Chile's new Magna Carta

The 155 constituents began drafting the country's new onstitution this Sunday, after protests postponed the entire process for a few hours

The hand of the Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera. He was the first to vote in the Constituent's elections on the weekend of May 16, 2021. Photo: Marcelo Segura/Presidencia/Gobierno de Chile.
  • The Chilean constitution is the first in the world drawn up by a joint body;
  • And the first in Chile in which the indigenous will be included, a group that accounts for 12.8% of the population but that had never been recognized in the fundamental law.

This Sunday, protests inside and outside the Former National Congress Building, in Santiago, ended up forcing the postponement of the beginning of drafting of the Chilean Constitution for a few hours. Marches organized by independent groups encountered heavily armed police commanding barricades outside the building, where the ceremony was taking place. Some participants tried to overcome the barriers, prompting the police to respond with tear gas and water cannons.

According to Reuters, amid demands by delegates for the “repressive” police forces to withdraw, the electoral court authority presiding over the ceremony agreed to suspend the event until noon. In the afternoon, the 155 constituents elected Elisa Loncón, an indigenous woman, to preside over the body that will create the new Magna Carta.

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The Chilean constitution is the first in the world drawn up by a joint body and the first in the country in which the indigenous will be included, a group that accounts for 12.8% of the population but that had never been recognized in the fundamental law.

The 155 constituents will do much of the work at the Pereira Palace, an old neoclassical mansion in Santiago’s center. But the plenary sessions will be held at the former National Congress Palace (since 1990, the Chilean Parliament is located in the city of Valparaíso, while the Executive Branch remains in Santiago).

Pereira Palace, in Santiago, will be the stage for the elaboration of the new Chilean Constitution. Photo: De DelRoble Caleu/ Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0.

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What will the process for the new Chilean Constitution be like:

  • The constituents will have a period of nine months to draft and approve the new Constitution;
  • Each article will have to be approved by two-thirds of the constituents, a proportion that aims to guarantee (at least theoretically) that each point has the support of the majority of society;
  • If necessary, the constituents may extend the work once, for three months;
  • In this way, the new Chilean Magna Carta would be ready between May and July 2021;
  • A minimum of two-thirds for the document’s approval is also a way of ensuring that Chile’s new fundamental law will not be subject to reforms or “band-aid” amendments any time soon;
  • Once completed and approved by the constituents, it will be sent to the President, who will have to call for a plebiscite within a maximum period of 60 days. If hypothetically, Chileans vote against this new Constitution, the current one will continue in force.

The only conditions for the draft of Chile‘s new Constitution are that the country will continue to be a Republic and that previous judicial sentences, as well as the international treaties previously signed, will be maintained.

The deadlines for drafting the Chilean Constitution are relatively short because the country urgently needs to determine a course.

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