Coming write-up: Chile votes to overhaul its constitution

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

The votes are in. Yesterday Chileans decided by an overwhelming majority to scrap and replace their dictatorship. Eric. Constitution. Bluesy Thomas. WHO Come in. Give President Sebastian. Benita said it was the beginning of a new path for the country. Wants to soon peretti Chile's constitution was introduced under Augusto. Pinochet the dictator who ruled by terror for nearly two decades he lost power after a plebiscite in nineteen eighty eight. United in opposition to the regime of General Pinochet was the biggest political rally yet seen in the capital, but the constitution remained. Later governments amended it dozens of times but for many Chileans, the constitution's most fundamental provisions to blame for the inequality and poor public services that plague one of America's wealthiest countries. Year ago mass protests erupted. At least thirty people died and thousands were injured. There were yet distractions in the run-up to yesterday's vote. Now the country will get a chance to recast its national charter quietening some concerns but perhaps raising new ones. Chileans blame the constitution of nine hundred for lot. That's wrong with the country Brooke Unger is our America editor in many ways looking from the outside there's not a lot wrong with Chile. It's got one of the highest per capita incomes in the region. It's reduced poverty very dramatically. It's had political stability for the past thirty years but there are also big problems and people who have been growing increasingly unhappy with those problems over the past decade decade and a half. So what were the issues with it if the outcome has seen? So stable in the meantime, several things inequality remain relatively high and I think most important really was a feeling that large because of the constitution the way. The public services were delivered resulted in low quality and great unfairness the constitution kind of privileges, the private sector in Chile, and the reason for that is that Pinochet had kind of an intellectual alliance with the so-called University of Chicago economists who were very pro free market and they wrote into the constitution lots of guarantees to protect the private sector and to give the private sector a pretty substantial role in providing public services like health care pensions, education and people have looked at that and become increasingly unhappy with the results of that system has brought. So how do you think it is that a rewriting of the constitution will will address all of these concerns I, think that the new Constitution will probably end up making Chile more social democratic than it is, for example, the constitution now says that people have a right to contribute either to a privately run or a publicly run healthcare system, which has resulted in a kind of a two tier system where the richer in the private system and most people are in the public system and the bulk of people feel that they're not very well served by that kind of two tier system. So I would expect some language that would allow the state to play a greater role in the health system that would allow taxation to play a role in funding a public health system and one of the things that reformers wants to. Do is to insert this idea of equality of opportunity into the constitution which doesn't have the American meaning. It basically means that they want the state to be in a position to ensure that all Chilean's are treated equally, and so that will I think lessen the role of the private sector in the provision of public services, and that's the real crux of it. What voters most want changed other things that probably will change some people say that the Chilean system is sort of hyper presidential. The president has a lot of power in Chile only the president can initiate tax and spending bills. For example Congress can do that. The president can determine which issues congress prioritizes the regions in Chile don't. have their own tax-raising powers. So all of these things tend to concentrate power in the capital and in the hands of the presidency and I would expect to see that being changed. It'll be interesting to see whether the constitution's ban on abortion is upheld. Imagine that will be a very controversial issue. So Chile is at a point where it could change in lots of pretty profound ways but I mean how even to go about that to start from scratch on kind of the working document of a whole country one of the choices that voters made yesterday was on how to rewrite the new constitution and what they decided was that there would be a newly elected assembly consisting entirely of. New Representatives which under the law will be half female and an election that new body will be held in April and that body will then I believe have a year to write a new constitution. So it really will in theory start with a blank piece of paper. One of the complicating issues will be that as this assembly is sitting and arguing and drafting chilly, we'll be moving into a political season. There are presidential elections, national elections to be held in November of next year. So it's pretty foreseeable that you know the politics of the presidential election will feed into the thinking of the drafters and vice versa it's going to be a very fraud I suspect and controversial process so. The potential gains seem fairly clear here, but is there some risk when starting from scratch like this? I think there is a risk Chile has in many ways been a pretty successful country and you can imagine that you know taken to extremes chilly ends up moving not so much in the direction of social democracy. But in the direction of populism being one of the things that probably will happen is that you'll have new rights inserted into the constitution like a right to housing for example now, that doesn't sound like a bad thing but the question will be is the government than on the hook for kind of bottomless spending on all these new rights spending that will either result in. Enormous deficits or crushing taxation I think the danger of that is limited to some extent by the fact that each clause of the new constitutional have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of this assembly. So I think the risks are limited to some extent. It was interesting to see that the very richest districts voted against the idea of a new constitution and after the results of the vote were clear you we had celebrations in the middle of Santiago. So instead of protests, there was a great sense of celebration. So I think that's a sense of national consensus process needs to happen, and it'll be very interesting to see if that national consensus hold up as the process actually gets underway. Brooke. Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you, Jason.

Coming up next