May 8, 2023 –The far-right Republican party has finished first in an election to choose the members of the body tasked with drawing up Chile’s new constitution.
The Republican party won 22 out of the 51 seats, with right-wing parties winning another 11 seats.
The constitutional assembly is to come up with a new constitution to replace the one brought in during the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet.
A draft by a previous assembly was rejected in a referendum last year.
The first assembly had been dominated by progressive members and many Chileans found their proposals too radical.
The constitution they had proposed would have changed many of the country’s institutions, such as replacing the Senate with a Chamber of Regions.
It also would have declared Chile a “plurinational state”, recognising the rights of Chile’s indigenous groups – which make up about 13% of the population – to their lands and resources.
The failed proposal – which had the backing of left-wing President Gabriel Boric – also included improved social benefits and environmental rights.
Had it been passed, it would have become one of the world’s most progressive constitutions.
But in September 2022, 62% of voters rejected it, prompting Sunday’s election for a new assembly.
Right-wing and far-right parties have won 39 seats, compared to 11 seats won by a centre-left alliance. A further seat will held by a representative of Chile indigenous population.
The leader of the far-right Republican Party, José Antonio Kast, said that his grouping’s victory was a sign that “the ideas of common sense have triumphed”.
Mr Kast, who lost against Gabriel Boric in the 2021 presidential election, is seen as the big winner in Sunday’s poll.
His party has been opposed to changing the current Pinochet-era constitution from the start.
Analysts say the new body will now face an uphill struggle to reconcile the ideas of its conservative majority with the clamour for change which triggered the process in the first place.
The drive for a new constitution started in 2019 after mass protests rocked Chile and caused serious disruption in the country, which is normally seen as a haven of stability in the region.
The new constitution will start its work in June and has been allocated five months to come up with a fresh constitution based on a blueprint drafted by experts.
The resulting text will be put to voters in a referendum to be held in December.