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Chile: campaign begins for plebiscite for new constitution

In the midst of the pandemic, the Chilean political parties began their electoral campaign on Wednesday with a view to the unprecedented plebiscite of October 25, when the citizens will decide if they want to replace the constitution bequeathed by the military dictatorship.

The conservative ruling party, which is opposed to changing the Magna Carta, develops its propaganda together, while the electoral commands of the center-left opposition act separately. The plebiscite was scheduled for April but was postponed due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

The propaganda began strongly on social networks and radio stations because the health emergency prevents the meetings of more than 50 people, especially in Greater Santiago, where almost half of the communes are in quarantine.

Chile has had a dozen constitutions during its history, although this is the first time that the public will decide if they want to change the current Magna Carta imposed by the military dictatorship in 1981. If they choose to replace it, the drafters of the new constitution will be chosen in another plebiscite in 2021.

Two months before the referendum, the authorities have not yet decided whether the infected active will be able to vote, some 15,000 at this time to which must be added their close contacts, a negligible figure compared to the 14.8 million eligible voters. At the moment public attention is focused on this point.

President Sebastián Piñera recalled that voting is secret and in person and his Minister of Health, Enrique Paris, declared that “if people with COVID-19 are going to vote, it can cause fear in those who do not have it.” The Electoral Service, responsible for organizing the plebiscite, indicated that it will seek “until the last moment for all people to participate.”

A week before the plebiscite will be the first anniversary of a violent social outbreak that led to massive protests against social and economic inequality in Chile and that forced the ruling party and the center-left opposition to agree to the holding of the constitutional referendum. Not a few fear new demonstrations.

The Communist Party, allied with other leftist groups in favor of replacing the constitution, launched its campaign in Plaza Italia, a symbol of popular discontent after the social outbreak that demanded changes in pensions, education, health and a new constitution. In the evening the remaining opposition parties plan to carry out caravans of cars and bicycles.

In the plebiscite, Chileans will also vote if they want the new constitution to be drawn up only by elected members or by parliamentarians in office and elected citizens in equal parts.

The current constitution introduced the neoliberal model in the country, privatized basic services, and created private education and health systems that only those who can pay have access to.

The polls coincide in that it will win approval for the change, which would have added followers after the economic collapse driven by the quarantines to stop the expansion of the coronavirus, despite which Chile is among the 10 countries in the world with the most infected. The South American country has more than 400,000 infected and about 11,000 deaths.