Analysis. The vote to choose the Constituent Assembly overcomes repression: ‘It is the first Constitution in the world that will be written by an assembly with an equal number of men and women and with a strong representation of the original peoples.’ The communist Irací Hassler is the new mayor of Santiago.

In Chile, the left beats expectations and has a chance to write the future

The elections to determine the composition of the Constituent Assembly and the holders of many local offices on May 15-16, 2021 turned into a rout over the country’s right wing, and over the traditional parties in general. The atmosphere before the polls closed was very different, as the low turnout figures (42.5%) were worrying the left, convinced that only a repeat of the high turnout of the October referendum could have guaranteed them control of the Constituent Assembly. Instead, the right, united in a single list, won only 37 seats out of 155.

“No one expected such an outcome — those who are claiming that now are lying. Certainly, many of us dreamed of it,” Tomás Hirsch told us from Santiago. Hirsch is a deputy from Acción Humanista del Cile and among the coordinators of the Apruebo Dignidad list, a coalition formed with the Frente Amplio and the Communist Party.

The goal of the “Vamos por Chile” coalition, which brought together everyone from the Pinochetists to President Piñera, was to take more than one-third of the constituent assembly, at least 52 deputies, in order to be able to have veto power during the process of writing the new Constitution.

“The traditional parties, the so-called duopoly, had a very bad result overall. The Christian Democrats practically disappeared, electing only one representative out of 155,” Hirsch said. “Furthermore, the most important municipalities in the country, starting with Santiago de Chile, were won by candidates from the left wing of the Frente Amplio or the Communist Party. In short, it was much more than we had hoped for.”

There were 28 elected from the Apruebo Dignidad coalition, 25 from Lista del Apruebo (center-left) and 48 seats won by independent candidates, most of whom represent the movements that have been marching in the streets with a great proportion of feminist representation since October 2019. Then, there were the 17 seats allocated to the original peoples.

“Clearly, getting more than the two-thirds needed to control the Constituent Assembly should allow us to do more than just erase the most undemocratic parts of the current constitutional charter, but also to convert it into a modern Constitution with a vision of the future,” Hirsch said. “It is the first Constitution in the world that will be written by an assembly with an equal number of men and women and with a strong representation of the original peoples.”

The forces of the struggle have defeated the repression—that can be said to be the verdict on the result. It was no different in the local elections, where the right wing collapsed, the opposition candidates won outright in three regions and will go to the runoff having won more votes in the first round in another 10.

The Valparaiso region, the second most important in the country, will be governed by Rodrigo Mundaca, the candidate of the Frente Amplio. Irací Hassler, of the Communist Party, is the new mayor of Santiago, the country’s capital, beating Felipe Alessandri, the incumbent mayor. No mayor of Santiago in the last 24 years has managed to get elected twice, and the tradition has been maintained, but now the winner is a woman and a communist, a novelty for the capital of a country that must still reckon with male chauvinism as one of its weak points.

As soon as she was elected, the new mayor said: “We hope that what is happening today in Santiago is the prelude to what will happen at the national level. Today we have a historic opportunity, in this very important moment, we will have a new Constitution and we will also have a transformation starting from the neighborhoods of the municipality of Santiago to reconquer our dignity and buen vivir, in this historic moment of transformation. We are going to build a municipality for the people. We are going strong.”

President Sebastián Piñera had to once again acknowledge defeat, as he did in October: “A strong and clear message has been sent to the government, and also to all the traditional political forces. We are not responding adequately to the demands and wishes of the citizens.”

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