Analysis. The new leadership team, in the hands of the independents, will face the crucial challenge of promoting more effective participation by the citizenry.

In a triumph of the independents, Chilean Convention elects María Elisa Quinteros president

For the Chilean Constitutional Convention, the second phase has begun. And its start was marked by the drama-filled election of the new leadership, called to replace the Mapuche Elisa Loncon and her deputy Jaime Bassa after their six-month term, as required by the regulations.

After almost 20 hours of grueling negotiations and twists and turns, another woman finally won the ninth round of voting: 39-year-old independent María Elisa Quinteros, a member of the Popular Assembly for Dignity (composed of social and territorial organizations from the Maule region), elected with the votes of the independents, representatives of the original peoples, the Communist Party and the Frente Amplio.

A dentist and lecturer at the Department of Public Health at the University of Talca, she defeated, with a simple majority of votes (78), a long series of names that appeared on the ballot and then lost in the successive votes, such as those of Ramona Reyes of the Socialist Party, the indigenous Diaguita Eric Chinga and another independent, Cristina Dorador, who got 72 votes.

“I am happy to contribute to the construction of a more pluralist society, in which it would be possible to respect differences and encounter each other in dialogue,” said the new president of the Convention, as Gabriel Boric immediately guaranteed the “enthusiastic support” of his government.

This support was completely lacking under the Loncon presidency, who, in her last speech, did not fail to mention this fact: “Unfortunately, we have had to deal with the pettiness of the powers-that-be. Despite the constitutional mandate, the outgoing government has been an obstacle.”

Completing the triumph of the independents was the election as vice-president, already in the first round of voting, of Gaspar Domínguez, a 32-year-old gay doctor, representative of the non-neutral independents (center-left) and one of the founders of the Constituent Dissident Network, created to give visibility to the issue of sexual diversity.

The new leadership team, in the hands of the independents, will face the crucial challenge of promoting more effective participation by the citizenry, to whom the General Regulations recognize the right to submit their own proposals—called “Popular Initiatives for Norms”—to the Convention, so that they may be voted on in the same way as those advanced by its members.

But while the initiatives registered on the Convention’s portal for popular participation already number more than 600—including one for the renationalization of copper, gold, silver and lithium mines and one that collects the historical claims of the movements in defense of water and glaciers and for the recognition of the rights of nature—the possibility that they will be incorporated into the future Constitution is not at all to be taken for granted: only the proposals that will obtain 15,000 signatures from at least four regions by February 1 will be voted on by one of the seven specialized committees. And only if these receive a simple majority of votes in the corresponding committee will they be taken up in a plenary session, which will have to approve them with a highly-contested two-thirds majority.

To date, only the “It will be law” initiative has reached the 15,000 signatures required. This initiative aims to guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of every person, including the right to abortion, based on the principles of autonomy, freedom and dignity. Presented on December 24 by the Permanent Assembly for the Legalization of Abortion, it took only 5 days to collect the required signatures, coming from as many as 16 regions of the country.

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