Writing a new constitution is like going to the dentist. There’s never a good time to do it, but it’s occasionally unavoidable. For Chile, which on Oct. 25 will vote on whether to draft a new national charter even as the country tries to come out of a deep pandemic-induced recession, the moment looks particularly inopportune.
But if the “approve” vote wins, that’s exactly what Chile will spend the next two years trying to accomplish. Even more worrisome is the fact that the country will undertake this process amid an already heavily packed election calendar. The election overdose that Chile is about to experience will add unnecessary noise to the already high levels of uncertainty associated with a constitutional replacement process.
International experience and recent Chilean political campaigns give an idea of what to expect. For starters, primaries for regional governors and mayors in several parts of the country will be held on Nov. 29, about a month after the constitution referendum. The members of a constitutional convention itself would be elected in April 2021 and begin deliberations in late May 2021 – just as campaigning for a presidential election the following November gets underway. Since many members of the constitutional convention will undoubtedly have political affinities with presidential candidates, the promises the presidential hopefuls make are likely to find an echo chamber in the constitutional convention.
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