A Constitutional Convention in Chile

Is this familiar?


The first depicts the convention where the US constitution was drafted in 1787. The second Australia’s in 1897-1898. Despite acknowledging it as a failure of reading and imagination, I cannot help but imagine constitutional conventions as historical events. For me, the act of deciding the fundamental social contract is indelibly implicated with white men in elaborate wigs and collars.

All the more interesting then that on Sunday, Chileans overwhelmingly voted to draft a new constitution. The current constitution dates from Pinochet’s dictatorship and is blamed, in part, for the decades of inequality which set off last year’s massive protests, where as many as one million people took to the streets. This piece by the NYT provides a good overview, including this quote that stuck with me:

“We are the generation for whom the joy never came,” said one of them, Nicole Martínez, 26. Her words were a bitter twist on “joy is coming,” the slogan from the campaign that ended military rule.

Voters also chose for the new constitution to be drafted by a popularly elected constitutional convention. The alternative would have seen some members of congress automatically included.


Elections will now be held for that body, which must have gender parity. This raises lots of interesting questions, like how the body will be elected, the role existing political parties will have in selecting candidates, and how legal experts will be involved. These are all difficult questions, but vitally important for any democratic society to puzzle through. This article is one of the few in English which goes into some of this detail, if you are interested.

At a time when the assaults on democracy and justice can seem constant, Chile’s protests and this referendum are a source of hope. Viva Chile.

2 thoughts on “A Constitutional Convention in Chile

  1. Hi Lewis

    I read you for the first time in the article you wrote for The Guardian, I liked very much the way you reflected on your experience of traveling business class, so I looked for more articles written by you and I found your blog

    I have found your articles very interesting and leaving the reader wanting to know more about the topic you explore in each post…, now I am reading “The New Silk Roads”

    Since I began reading you I have noticed that you have written two pieces on Latin America, Bolivia elections and Chile referendum., since I live in México I would like to suggest you to take a look on what is going on here. We have a populist president that has built a narrative around his fight against neoliberalism and he is dismantling the “neoliberal” institutions to create a more equal society. So I think that you might be interested in taking a look at this country. The FT and the Economist have published several articles since 2018 about Mr López Obrador, the current situation and the risks involved.

    Since Covid is not in the priorities for populists, Mexico is now one of the 5 countries in the world with more cases, and the economy is a mess.

    So I think that something interesting is going on in Mexico

    Best regards


    > El 26 oct 2020, a las 11:37, Something Interesting. Everyday. escribió: > >


    1. Hola Fernando,

      Que tal? I really appreciate your comment. It makes me very happy that someone out there connected with what I’ve written. Thanks for taking the time to tell me, it made my day. Let me know how you find The New Silk Roads!

      I’d love to read more about Mexico. I will check out some of the articles written here and do a post in the next few weeks.




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