"The demand for a new constitution condenses the demands of the protesters"

Many Chilean protesters demand a new constitution, and this demand is formulated by other protest movements elsewhere in the world, a sign of a desire to reclaim the right, says in a tribune to the "World" the constitutionalist Carlos M. Herrera.

Time to Reading 3 min.

Subscribers article

"As if a reappropriation of the grammar of the rights was a prerequisite to the reconquest of the spaces of freedom and equality for the citizens" (Photo: November 7 in Santiogo of Chile). RODRIGO ARANGUA / AFP

Tribune. The events taking place in Chile since October 18 – and which observers are increasingly translating as "popular uprisings" – contain several lessons, including in an area that would seem a priori the farthest from the challenge of order: constitutional law. However, from the first street demonstrations, the main claim appeared spontaneously was that of "constituent assembly", the other being the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera.

It has since been strengthened by the holding, in the days following the first mobilizations, of several forums on the issue, which bring together both academics committed to the issue and actors from the dispute, including young people. To the point that the demand for a new constitution condenses the current program of the movement in that it has more systematic. Moreover, according to the latest barometer of opinion of the University of Chile, it is supported by more than 80% of respondents.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Bertrand Badie: "Act II of globalization has begun"

The significance of this claim can be explained by several reasons. Some touch on the history of Chile. This country did not know in XXe century of constitution resulting from the constituent power. That of 1925, which sanctioned the entry of the country into the era of mass democracy, was finally developed by a group of experts, in contradiction with the initial promises.

"Yellow vests" and "indignant"

Even further from this specifically democratic modality of law-making was the 1980 Constitution, drawn up by the ideologues of the dictatorship of General Pinochet, a text that remains essentially in force today, despite some revisions since the transition to democracy started in the late 1980s.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, Chile, Hong Kong … The challenge is global

Of all the countries that have experienced this peaceful transition from authoritarian regimes to democracy, Chile is the only one, and not only in Latin America, to always be governed by a supreme norm conceived by a military dictatorship (it will be recalled that the general Pinochet himself will remain a central figure of the system until his arrest in London in 1998).

Of all the countries that have experienced this peaceful transition from authoritarian regimes to a democracy, Chile is the only one still to be governed by a supreme norm conceived by a military dictatorship

In fact, the protesters who are asking for a new constitution associate it with abandoning a neoliberal economic model that has been applied continuously since the late 1970s, including by governments elected on a center-left program. Indeed, they point to the absence of standards guaranteeing the existence of social rights among the main sources of the situation of inequality that lives the Chilean people, and which was at the origin of the uprising.