11 December 2023

Third Time’s A Charm?

The second process to draft a new constitutional text in Chile ended on November 7. A referendum to be held on December 17 will decide upon the fate of the constitutional proposal that resulted from it. Polls indicate that the proposal will be rejected, even if the option in favor of the proposal has been gaining support lately. Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, it might be fair to say that this second version of the constituent process has already failed. In particular, I argue that just like the first draft, the second proposal seeks to constitutionally entrench the goals of the political factions that held the majority within the drafting organ, instead of providing a constitutional framework that would allow for broad self-governance based on the democratic principle.

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16 May 2023

Lithium and Constitutional Change

On 20 April 2023, Chile’s President Gabriel Boric addressed the nation to announce the highly anticipated National Lithium Strategy. Boric announced the creation of a National Lithium Company (which must be enacted by Congress) and the establishment of public-private joint ventures, with a prominent role for the government.  His speech began by referencing the nationalization of copper in the late 1960s and its completion in 1971 under President Salvador Allende. The new lithium strategy has to be understood as something more than merely an economic proposal. It is part of a larger and elusive effort to reconfigure the State.

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09 May 2023

Chile or the Impossibility of a Constitution

The second act of Chile’s constituent process is ready to begin. Elections for the 50 members of the Constituent Council, in charge of drafting the text of a new constitution, took place this Sunday, May 7. The results, a clear victory for the far-right Republicanos, may come as a surprise to many. Is it?

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02 March 2023

Verfassungsmüdigkeit

Im März 2023 beginnt ein neuer Verfassungsprozess in Chile. Die Rahmenbedingung hierfür bildet ein Gesetz, das das Chilenische Parlament im Januar 2023 mit großer Mehrheit beschlossen hat. Zuvor war im Dezember 2022 nach dreimonatigen Verhandlungen ein neues “Abkommen für Chile” (Acuerdo para Chile) zwischen den verschiedenen Abgeordneten beschlossen worden, das sich nun auch in dem Gesetzesvorschlag widerspiegelt. Schon jetzt zeichnet sich allerdings ab, dass der neue Verfassungsprozess sehr viel stärker durch die politisch Etablierten geprägt ist als der vorherige. Dem steht eine Bevölkerung gegenüber, deren Aufmerksamkeit für und Erwartung an den neuen Verfassungsprozess deutlich zurückgegangen ist.

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03 February 2023

The Chilean Constituent Process: Take 2

After months of difficult negotiations, political parties in Chile agreed on the conditions for a new constituent process. This second attempt at drafting a new constitution for Chile looks radically different than the first process. While in the first process an elected Convention had the task to draft the new constitutional text, the draft that results from this second process will be produced by the interaction of three different organs: Council, Commission and Committee. Members of two of them, Commission and Committee, are not elected and have a rather “technical” character. Has legal expertise thus replaced political will in the second process?

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08 September 2022

Chile’s constitutional endeavour goes on

The Chilean people overwhelmingly rejected the draft constitution in the referendum held on September 4. How did it come to that? And what will happen now? A few first impressions on a result that seemed impossible a few months ago.

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31 August 2022

Win or Lose, Chile’s Draft Constitution Heralds a New Era of Climate Constitutionalism

On September 4, Chileans will vote on whether to adopt a new constitution. It is a deeply contested election. Polls show that the yes vote is trailing by roughly 10% points, but with over 15% of voters still undecided, as of last week. The debate over the new text has centered on questions of the balance of powers, the autonomy of indigenous people, and the participation of the private sector in the provision of social security, health, and education. But one of the most innovative features of the text is not getting enough attention domestically – its deep engagement with environmentalism, and with climate change in particular.

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24 August 2022

The Constitution of What?

On 4 September, the Chilean people will vote on whether a draft constitution, the result of the work of a Constitutional Convention, will replace the current constitution, which dates back to Pinochet’s dictatorship. Chile’s constituent process, one might think, will thus soon be over. The future is less clear. The draft can be understood as as an exercise of social self-constitution. Its feasibility, however, seems to depend on accommodating social pluralism with the opposed logic of the realm of politics and its permanent dynamic of generating a unity that speaks with one voice.

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25 May 2022

Schlechte Umfragewerte für Chiles Verfassung

Die Verfassunggebende Versammlung in Chile befindet sich im Endspurt, bevor am 5. Juli 2022 der endgültige Vorschlag veröffentlicht werden muss. Doch die letzten Umfragen großer Meinungsforschungsinstitute zeigen seit einigen Wochen eine knappe Mehrheit, die gegen die neue Verfassung stimmen möchte. Das könnte vor allem an der gescheiterten Kommunikation der Verfassunggebenden Versammlung liegen.

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11 April 2022
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How to Overcome an Anti-democratic Heritage

Chile and Turkey appear to be more similar than one would initially imagine. In both countries, neoliberal policies were implemented through constitutions made under the shadow of military dictatorships. For the last half-century, the development of democratic culture in both countries was undermined by military coups and military governments using anti-democratic methods. However, in late 2019, Chile has taken off from its old path to become a more democratic state that rests on social justice and gender equality by generating a new constitution through intense popular participation and equal political representation.

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08 April 2022

Getting on the Wrong Side of Constitutionalism

The Chilean new constitution will be voted on a general plebiscite on September 4, 2022. While a few months ago the plebiscite might have looked like a formality, the approval rates for the Constitutional Convention and what is known of the proposed text so far have been dropping for some time now. According to recent polls, the rejection of the new text is becoming more and more likely, putting the constituent process under even more pressure.

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04 March 2022

Ein plurinationales Rechtssystem für Chile

Seit Mitte Februar schreiben die Mitglieder der Verfassunggebenden Versammlung in Chile an den Normen einer neuen Verfassung. In der ersten Woche stimmte das Plenum über Regeln zu Rechtssystem und Staatsaufbau ab. Die Ergebnisse der Abstimmungen haben in der Öffentlichkeit wegen mangelnder Klarheit für viel Diskussion gesorgt. Mit diesen Normen scheint die Verfassunggebende Versammlung Ungerechtigkeiten der Vergangenheit gegenüber der indigenen Bevölkerung beheben zu wollen. Das zeigt sich an dem Stellenwert, den der Verfassungsentwurf den Regionen und indigenen Rechtssystemen zuschreibt.

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30 September 2021

Die Chilenische Verfassunggebende Versammlung

Die Verfassunggebende Versammlung in Chile hat am 28. und 29. September 2021 die grundsätzlichen Verfahrensregeln ihrer Arbeit verabschiedet. Seit der Wahl ihrer Mitglieder im Mai 2021 ist klargeworden, dass der politische und sozialökonomische Kontext einen erheblichen Einfluss auf ihre Arbeit hat. Gleichzeitig erhebt die Versammlung gewisse Machtansprüche im aktuellen politischen Diskurs.

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22 June 2021

Chile’s Kaleidoscopic Constituent Assembly

Chile is getting rid of Pinochet — at long last. Last month, Chileans elected a constituent assembly that will draft a constitutional text to replace the current Constitution, which the dictator imposed in 1980. Though the result of the deliberative process that will soon commence is uncertain, one thing is sure: Chile’s constituent assembly resembles the country in ways that no political arrangement had allowed so far.

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03 November 2020
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Pitfalls of a Precious Opportunity

After forty years, Chile recently expressed the will to no longer being governed by the Constitution bequeathed by Pinochet. And it did so in a resounding manner through a plebiscite. The path that will lead to the election of the Constitutional Convention and then the drafting of the new Constitution seems to be exciting: we are observing how a genuine constituent moment is unfolding. However, the importance of the social question coupled with the new constitution carries the risk of over-constitutionalisation and the lack of leadership in the constitutional process could diminish its perception of legitimacy.

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28 October 2020

Große Erwartungen

Vergangenen Sonntag, am 25. Oktober 2020, haben die Chilenen in einer historischen Abstimmung den Weg für eine neue Verfassung freigemacht. Schon über ein Jahr protestieren die Bürger des Landes und nun ist es ihnen gelungen, diese Proteste durch das Referendum auf eine demokratische Weise zu kanalisieren. Entsprechend hoch sind die Erwartungen an die neue, noch zu erarbeitende Verfassung.

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14 September 2020
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“Anti-Politics” in the Name of the People

The current Chilean Constitution is politically dead; it does no longer provide legitimacy and integrity to the political system. In the constituent process, the government’s constitutional proposals can be interpreted as being part of what has been called Chilean populist moment, characterised not only by a distrust in expert opinion, a rejection of the elite’s privileges, or a challenge on representative democracy, but an explicit “anti-politics” stance in the name of the people.

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19 May 2020

Chile and COVID-19: A Constitutional Authoritarian Temptation

Due to the pandemic, Chile's 2020 electoral calendar has been modified, delaying the most important political event of the year: the April referendum for a new constitution. While the postponement is reasonable considering the current sanitary situation, recent suggestions that there be a further postponement due to a possible post-pandemic economic crisis threaten the democratic legitimacy of the process. As argued in this post, these measures and opinions, when read together, put the government close to an authoritarian use of the constitution.

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28 April 2020

The Downfall of a Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court of Chile faces the worst crisis in its history. It largely stems from the way the Court has exercised its powers in recent years. A blend of judicial activism and an utter disdain for rules has seriously undermined the Court’s reputation and the current shows that the Court has probably risen in prominence for the wrong reasons.

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02 December 2019

Between Constitutional Romance and Real-World Politics

The Chilean process for a new constitution is a reminder that constitutional processes are not necessarily ideal scenarios of high deliberation, but processes that can include risks, self-interested politicians, the threat of violence, and competing views that try to defeat each other. In Chile, the romantic notion of constitution-building as a sort of new beginning quickly faced the challenges of real-world politics in a situation of institutional fragility.

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10 November 2019

A Constitution Borne Out of Actual Bullets

When Sergio Verdugo published his post "The Chilean Political Crisis and Constitutions as Magic Bullets", Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera’s approval rate was at 14%. Less than a week later, polls suggest a worrying and unprecedented 9% support. Although President Piñera has adopted significant measures, people are still protesting. It is not likely that this will change until the people have had the opportunity to participate in constitutional deliberations – and it is now upon the President to act.