The scenarios: what is at stake for the Government of Gabriel Boric in the plebiscite for a new Constitution
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The left-wing government of Gabriel Boric, who has not yet been in power for six months and will govern until March 2026, made the decision to push the constitutional convention, the text that he presented to the country, and then one of the plebiscite options output, I approve. Despite the president’s latest statements with a tone of unity regardless of the result – “here there can be no winners and losers” – the union between support for the Government and the new Constitution seems evident to a good part of the citizenry. On Saturday night, Boric sent a new message, this time through social networks: “Dear country, tomorrow will be a great day. In Chile we resolve our differences with more democracy, never with less. I am deeply proud that we have come this far,” he wrote.
In recent months, the polls showed the direct relationship between the ups and downs of popularity of La Moneda with those of the work of the convention and, later, the position before the plebiscite that is celebrated this Sunday. “They are doomed to each other, to the point that the fate of both is inseparable. The Government of Gabriel Boric and the constituent process have the same origin and share the same destiny,” analyst and philosopher Max Colodro wrote in February, characterizing them as “prodigal sons of the political and cultural changes that Chilean society has been experiencing since more than a decade ago.”
Some political analysts have even spoken of the fact that the government will have the difficult test of facing a kind of plebiscite on its administration less than six months after starting on March 11. This premise was helped by the declarations of the political ministers: “With the current Constitution, many of our reforms could not be carried out,” said Giorgio Jackson, one of those closest to Boric, even before the convention delivered the final text. one month after. The president himself supported it: “It is evident that the current constitutional framework, of the 1980 Constitution, is an obstacle to some of the reforms that we want to make.” The spokeswoman, Camila Vallejo, along the same lines, assured in those days that “the government program, its depth, also depends to a great extent on what happens on September 4.”
Dear country, tomorrow will be a great day. In Chile we resolve our differences with more democracy, never with less. I am deeply proud that we have come this far.
Tomorrow, we continue together. A hug!
— Gabriel Boric Font (@gabrielboric) September 4, 2022
These statements have been nuanced especially when La Moneda began to be convinced – belatedly for some – that it was not impossible for him to win the rejection of the new Constitution, something that was not in the plans of the new generation of government leaders.
On July 15 – less than two weeks after the definitive text was known – Boric announced that if he won the rejection there would be a new constituent process. It was the first time that this scenario had been admitted by the president, which caused two things: anger on the part of his political blocs – there was a communist leader who even called him a traitor – and the certain decision, at the same time, to bet for the approval from the Government, in actions that have been cataloged by non-government supporters as “to the limit of what is correct.”
But La Moneda decidedly decided to change its strategy at the end of July. On the 25th of that month, Boric pointed out that “everything is perfectible and we are going to carry out this process after the plebiscite”, in reference to reforms to improve the convention proposal. Only a few days later, however, he changed his mind and began pushing the battery of constitutional compromises to improve the convention proposal, which were made public on August 11. It was a way of giving guarantees to the voters who had doubts about supporting the proposal, although part of the political world never fully understood the Government’s reasons for not having engaged in politics before the end of the convention and, in this way, having achieved a text of better quality that would convene the majority of citizens.
change of ministers
If approved, the government will come out stronger and the changes that the president must make in his cabinet – which will probably be in the next few hours – will be less profound than those demanded by the moderate sectors of the ruling party. It would be a great endorsement six months from the start, despite the problems he has faced (according to the Cadem poll, 39% support Boric’s leadership and 56% disapprove). In this scenario, the left wing of those who support him would seek to push the committed change agenda with more force.
But the risk seems high: if he loses approval, the Chilean president on Sunday night will have to have the political ability to try to detach himself from a great defeat and to summon a divided citizenry to a new constituent process. The bags of votes are big and there is a lot of a game. It is made evident by a fact that electoral experts repeat these days, who calculate that 65% of the voter will go out to vote, that is, about 10 million citizens. As the referendum would be resolved by narrow margins, the winning option would obtain some 5 million votes. That number will inevitably be compared to the 4.6 million people who voted for Boric in the second round, which catapulted him as the most voted president in history. If he wins the rejection, more people will have voted for an option that was not the president’s. If he wins approval, La Moneda’s option will have obtained even more votes than the president in the December ballot.
The tensions that will arise as of tonight have been verbalized by the president of the right-wing UDI party, Senator Javier Macaya: in the case of winning the rejection, he assured during the week, “the Government cannot divorce itself from the defeat of approval”, for which he called for his program to land, “to begin to govern” and focus on the issues that interest the people -according to him-, such as citizen security, violence in La Araucanía and the cost of life, among other things.
But there are those who see an opportunity. The economist Andrés Velasco, who will vote for the rejection, in a recent interview with EL PAIS pointed out that whoever wins, half of the country will be dissatisfied with the result. “The process has increased the divisions between people instead of reducing them. Those are messages that the Government must pick up. They seem like a complication, but for President Boric, they also turn out to be an opportunity. An opportunity to help heal those wounds, renew his Cabinet, recalibrate the coalition that supports him, giving more weight to democratic socialism and, in the event that the rejection succeeds, to lead the second stage of the constitutional process together with Congress.”
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