Chile’s Constitutional Revolution
The 155 members of Chile’s new constitutional convention must cast aside everything they stand for in order to do their job well. A generation reared on direct participatory politics – whether via Twitter, on university campuses, or in the streets – now must build a representative democracy
LONDON – A revolution is the overthrow of existing political arrangements. A successful uprising builds new and better ones. There have been many revolutions in Latin America, but few have succeeded. Can Chile buck that age-old trend?
If zeal to throw out the old and bring in the new is the standard, then Chile’s election of a constitutional convention earlier this month was revolutionary. In selecting the 155-member body that will write a new constitution – the result of a political deal to end the unrest and rioting that shook the country in 2019 – Chileans gave their current political establishment an embarrassingly diminished role.
The ruling conservative coalition behind President Sebastián Piñera had expected to win one-third of the seats, which would have enabled it to block sweeping constitutional changes. But it secured barely one-quarter. The center-left parties that have governed Chile for 24 of the last 30 years fared even worse and will control just one seat in six – fewer than a new alliance of the Communist Party and other far-left parties, and fewer than the People’s List, a motley assemblage of radical groups that grew out of the 2019 protests. Independent candidates – environmentalists, feminists, local leaders, and advocates of devolution to Chile’s regions – were the overwhelming winners.