After counting more than 90 percent of the votes for the Constitutional Convention, the unexpected result was certain late on Sunday evening, May 16: the traditional so – called" political class " of Chile – in particular the right-wing government coalition led by President Sebastián Piñera-suffered its worst electoral defeat since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990. To illustrate the popularity of loss, not only of the political heirs of Augusto Pinochet, but also the traditional center-left parties with their influential neoliberal wings, it should be noted that, according to recent surveys Piñera ruled with 9 percent support, and the Parliament, with a center-left majority is an 8 percent approval in the people. An on-site report by Frederico Füllgraf.
The winner is a bloc of so-called independents and a joint electoral list of the Communist Party (PCCh) and the left Frente Amplio (FA), called “Apruebo Dignidad”. The former with 47 and the latter with 28 seats, which add up to 75 of the total 155 seats in the future Constituent Assembly. If, however, they are joined by the electoral list “Apruebo” of the former center-left coalition, called Concertación (25 seats), and that of the indigenous peoples (17 reserved seats), the progressive forces could influence the Constitutional Convention with a large margin (117 seats) with its 155 seats, where President Piñera’s right-wing conservative list “Vamos Chile” won the most list seats, but failed to achieve its goal of controlling one third of the seats. But this third depends on the working rules and decisions of the future Convention: these are only valid with two thirds of the votes.
Influential Chilean left-liberal media such as El Desconcierto fuelled Schadenfreude on the night of the sobering Monday morning with the headline: “The long transition is over. The party of order is dead”. The similarly left-liberal El Mostrador applauded: “The old is finished, the new is saluted: the political card game is shuffled over the ashes of Chile Vamos and the former Concertación”.
After the official announcement of the election result, President Piñera, surrounded by the entire government cabinet, appeared in the courtyard of the Moneda Government Palace and gave a mixture of funeral speeches and astonishing cynicism. On the one hand, he praised the successful holding of peaceful elections as a “triumph of democracy,” while on the other hand he singled out himself and his cabinet by saying that they “take seriously the warning of voters whose concerns have not yet been perceived.” The sentence sounded cynical because it gave the impression that the Piñera government had either slept or inhabited an alien planet far from Chile during the social revolt of October 2019.
In fact, the president’s multi-billionaire had mass social protests beaten to death with police brutality denounced all over the world, choked with tear gas and shot to death, which led him to file a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court in The Hague a year and a half later and a few months before the end of his mandate for serious violations of human rights. The irony of the complaint is that the criminal complaint was filed by the same Spanish lawyer and ex-judge Baltasar Garzón, who in 1990, on behalf of families of victims of torture and murder, demanded the extradition of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, who was stuck in Britain, against which the then Pinochet supporter Sebastián Piñera loudly protested.
However, the so-called" mega-election " of 15 and 16 May was not limited to voting for the Constitutional Convention, but included local elections and, for the first time in Chilean history, the direct election of provincial governors, thus taking Chile’s first step towards a timid but decentralized federation and regional autonomy. But here, too, the right-wing alliance around Sebastián Piñera suffered an unexpected defeat: in 4 of the 16 state regions (federal states), the opposition won the governorship, the remaining 12 regions must run for election in June.
Outstanding examples of opposition popularity are the election of communist Iraci Hassler as mayor of the capital Santiago and the election of social and environmental activist Rodrigo Mundaca as governor of the neighboring economically influential region of Valparaíso with an overwhelming 60 percent of the vote. In September 2018, fashion-food and environmental killer avocado was the first international media to interview Mundaca about the cultivation and export of avocado and the privatisation of water in the province of Valparaíso.
Farewell to the “legacy” of Pinochet
A new, democratic and socially just Constitution was one of the main demands of the social revolt that erupted in Chile from October to December 2019, despite police violence, dozens of dead and blind victims only contained by the corona pandemic. Nevertheless, in the midst of the high corona caseloads, the conservative government of Piñera made its first concession to the demand of the streets, calling for a referendum in October 2020, which voted for a new constitution at nearly 80 percent and set last month April as the election date, which was postponed to last weekend as a result of the continuing corona caseloads high.
However, the election result surprised with another and startling double irony. On the one hand, it turned out that the equivalent of 14 million euros in donations from Chile’s billionaires to the electoral list of right-wing to fascist parties were, so to speak, for the cat. On the other hand, the poor streets of all places came out as election winners and signalled that money does not always rule the world.
Why, however, did the posters of the social revolt demand: “Pinochet’s Constitution will fall!”? There is unanimous agreement among lawyers, economists, social activists and sections of the media that the 1988 constitution of dictator Augusto Pinochet, which is still in force despite more than thirty years of “democratic transition” and several centre-left governments, represents something like the ten commandments of neoliberal economic and state doctrine. That they are above all under the active influence of the Chicago School of Economics under Prof. Milton Friedman was tested in Chile as a “laboratory” and from the 1980s was converted into the worldwide capitalist planning and sales machine.
One of Pinochet’s favorite phrases was that of the so – called “subsidiary state” – meant as a “makeshift” or “serving” institution-which entered its constitution as a primacy and influenced numerous laws. Accordingly, this state structure is based on the principle that the state may intervene only in those activities which the private sector or the market cannot carry out. This state should not provide any social protection of fundamental rights to employment, food and public services. Nor was it for him to advocate the creation and observance of labour laws to protect workers in respect of remuneration, working hours, the right to strike, retirement, etc.
This doctrine had far-reaching and dramatic consequences in Chile and also fueled the privatization of all social, health and educational institutions, as well as the public pension system in force until the end of the Salvador Allende government (1970-1973).
As an illustrious exponent of this doctrine, Sebastián Piñera has refused emergency financial aid to two-thirds of Chileans since the outbreak of the corona pandemic and subsequent harsh, erratic lockdowns. And with such a devastating, anti-social attitude that in order to survive, the population only had to force the payment of their own pension savings from the private pension funds, thanks to the intervention of parliament and the courts.
The Independientes: Is the electoral potential of the street revolt the birth of Chile’s Podemos?
The “Independent” are the rebels against the neoliberal and the plight of a country-wide Alliance of 83 regional electoral lists of social and environmental movements, citizens ' initiatives, representatives of many professions – including University professors, teachers, lawyers, Doctors, nurses, industrial and agricultural workers and students. The independents may be described as" insurgents against the collected establishment", but not from the right-wing," populist " corner, but from a genuinely grassroots, left-wing spectrum, recruited partly from splits and disillusioned with the traditional left. They embody the rejection, which has been smouldering for years, not only of the traditional right, but increasingly also of the action of the centre-left coalition (Socialists, Christian Democrats and the Radical Party) in the executive and in the Chilean parliament.
“We are the ones who have seen our countrymen mutilated and killed. We are the ones who hunger for justice and thirst for freedom. We are the ones who want a dignified life, built with love, not only to survive, but to be able to live. We believe that the people must have a fundamental place in the drafting of our new constitution and in the creation of the new Chile.”
For example, the party-politically independent electoral list La Lista del Pueblo, translated into German as “the list of the people”, is defined. Unlike all political parties, and driven by a history that began at the protest site Plaza Italia in Santiago-which the protest movement renamed “Plaza Dignidad” – the"Independientes" were not among the election projections of analysts or the media, commented the media platform Pauta Chile and drew obvious comparisons with the protests in Spain at the beginning of the millennium and the resulting party Podemos.
The “List of the people” came about with a series of coalition agreements between left-wing independents in numerous state districts. This was not, as is customary with pacts of the traditional parties, a nationwide list of units, but the exploitation of legal regulations, which allows only coalitions under non-party initiatives. And the result was astounding, because in total the popular list received over 884,000 votes; 40,000 more votes than that of the former center-left government coalition Concertación.
“This movement was born in a country and a world that is going through strong institutional, democratic and value crises,” its founders explain. “In this perspective, the new Constitution is the starting point for a new social pact that allows us to move forward with unity into the future. We need an inclusive republic that solves gender discrimination, immigration and poverty on the path of positive integration.
We will promote a new constitution that addresses the disadvantages of the current system of representation … (note. FF: the centralist presidential system) and gives the parliament greater powers. We advocate a unicameral system, a semi-presidential or similar system of government with effective regionalization and mechanisms for greater participation of citizens and civil society in decision-making processes, combining representative democracy with means of direct democracy.
It is necessary to ensure the internal and external independence of the judiciary and to conduct a thorough review of the mechanisms to ensure compliance with the Constitution. This implies a new understanding of the control of constitutionality. …
Likewise, a republic is needed that overcomes the shortcomings of the present centralized and discriminatory unitary state through mechanisms involving regions and indigenous peoples. This task begins with the recognition that we are a racist and class – based country-a social trait that must be fought and overcome.”