Right-wing parties would have full control of the new proposal for the constitutional text. Preliminary results (99.4% of votes) point to the right-wing party Republicanos achieving 35.4% of the votes, reaching 22 of the 50 members of the constitutional council. Put together with the center right (21.1% of the votes), the group would have a total of 33 seats, allowing it to control the results of the constitutional text, even overriding the proposed text by the Committee of Experts.
The government coalition underwhelmed. The Unidad para Chile and Todo por Chile groups that account for the government's coalition, reached 37.5% of the votes, leading to 17 seats. Separately, one seat would be added for indigenous groups. Participation was roughly 82%, (below the record-setting 86% of the national plebiscite of Sep-22). Null and blank votes reached a large 21%.
There is the risk of a rejection to the proposed text in the plebiscite in December. Many Republicano candidates publicly stated that a new constitution was not necessary. The body of elected members will start working on June 7, advancing on the draft prepared by experts. After receiving the text from the Committee of Experts, the council will have five months to deliver the final text, which must be ratified by simple majority in a national plebiscite (again with mandatory vote) on December 17.
The current constitutional process includes a draft text being prepared by experts, 12 principles to minimize uncertainty (to be overseen by a team of lawyers) and a shorter timeframe than the previous process. There are three institutions involved: i) a Constitutional Council (50 delegates, far below the 155 of the previous constitutional process); ii) a Committee of Experts (24 members); and iii) an Admissibility Committee (14 members). Leading up to the Constitutional Council vote, the Committee of Experts has been drafting the initial base text. In contrast to the previous process in which the Constitutional Convention began drafting the text from scratch, the new process first considers a base text written by experts selected by Congress. While the previous process included only a few aspects that the Convention had to respect, the new process explicitly considers twelve principles that help to minimize uncertainty. The new text must respect the three independent and separate powers of the State (executive, judiciary and legislative), a bi-cameral Congress and the autonomy of state bodies such as the central bank, among others. Importantly from a macro-fiscal perspective, the principles also maintain the Executive’s exclusive mandate on spending.
Looking ahead, norms within the Constitutional Council need to be approved by a three-to-five quorum. Nonetheless, all norms presented by the Committee of Experts that do not reach the required quorum and are not rejected by two-thirds of the Constitutional Council will be sent to a Mixed Committee of 12 members composed equally of experts and Council members, with norms approved by three-fifths of the Mixed Committee. Separately, an Admissibility Committee made up of 14 lawyers selected by Congress will ensure that the 12 principles are respected.
While the new constitutional process reduces uncertainty, risks do remain. In the short term, discussions of the constitutional process could be affected by spillovers from the macro environment of high (yet falling) inflation and a projected contraction in economic activity. Congress is discussing additional measures to support households, including new pension fund withdrawals. The strong performance of the right-wing Republicanos is likely to make more difficult for the Government to attract votes from the center-right and advance on structural reform agenda. In the longer term, the eventual approval of a new constitution will likely imply the adjustment of current legislation to the new Magna Carta, creating uncertainty during the process of transition.
Andrés Pérez M.
Ignacio Martinez Labra