Chile is braced for its constitutional referendum this Sunday, September 4th.
Chileans are being asked to go to the polls over a reform to the country’s constitution in such a way as to dramatically increase the power of the executive.
President Garbriel Boric and his leftist party, Apruebo Dignidad (AD), would thereby have a freer hand, reducing the need to create cross-party consensus, even though these changes are being justified as a way to expunge Pinochet-era, right-wing authoritarianism from the state’s structure.
Writes Sven Larson of Boric and his party’s agenda:
[They] want to remove “obstacles” that stand in the way of “efficient” legislation. These so-called obstacles include the bicameral system and super-majorities required to pass certain laws. They prefer a simple majority in one chamber.
Together with the reforms to the legislative process, this package bears a striking resemblance to Venezuela’s in the early days of the Chavez presidency … Chavez started his first presidential term with a constitutional reform that “streamlined” the legislative process. This meant implementing a unicameral National Assembly where laws could pass on simple-majority votes.
Their referendum will not only reflect the degree to which Chileans want power concentrated in the executive, but on whether they want Boric’s agenda pursued, and how weary they are of what has gone on in other Latin American countries.
Less than a month before the vote, most major polls found that a majority of the country was against the change to the constitution. On August 7th, polling agency Data Influye published that 48% of its respondents rejected the reform, compared to 43% that approved.
Closer to the vote, on the 19th, two other agencies, Cadem and Activa, released polling data that also leaned toward a rejection of the reform, both finding that 46% of the public disapproved of it (compared to 37% approving in the Cadem results, and a mere 33% in those of Activa).
It now remains to be seen whether the polls are right in predicting the result of a significant turning point for Chile, whether in changing its constitution or in dealing a severe blow to the Boric government.