Chile – from street protest to a new constitution


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Chile is in the process of drafting a brand new constitution. The current constitution is rooted in the dictatorship of Pinochet and does not serve modern Chile. My guest, Claudia Heiss, recounts the fear and tension during her childhood in the years of repression, and how that shaped her motivation to become a researcher of democracy. She shares with us how public pressure on the streets of Chile has built up over years, and how people were injured and even killed while protesting for basic rights and better representation. In 2019, the protests became so massive and fierce that the parliament was compelled to propose two popular votes: the first asking the people if they wanted a new constitution, and the second whether a constitutional convention should be elected to draft it. The people approved both proposals in October 2020, and elected a new constitutional convention on 15/16 May 2021.

An important step in the process was the electoral reform in 2015 that changed the parliamentary elections from using a binomial system with two-seat electoral districts to an open-list proportional system. That reform allowed for a more diverse and representative parliament to be elected in 2017. That same proportional electoral system was now used to elect the constitutional convention, including a gender quota and reserved seats for the indigenous people of Chile.

Dr. Claudia Heiss is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Instituto de Asuntos Publicos at the University of Chile. She has written and published extensively on the constitutional reform process.

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Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Claudia Heiss.

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