To describe what is happening in Chile, two connected processes must be considered: the constitutional process and the recent elections. Both have been affected by significant economic and social phenomena, in addition to the pandemic.
The constitutional process
The Chilean Constitution dates back to 1980, to the time of Pinochet’s dictatorship. It was drafted by a small group of jurists. Over time, its legitimacy has been increasingly questioned for various reasons, including the following three:
1) Its origin. It is a text compiled under a dictatorship, behind closed doors and without the participation of the people. It received formal approval through a plebiscite, but that vote took place under the supervision of the armed forces, and therefore its validity is questionable.
2) Its form. A constitutional diktat has given birth to an imperfect democracy. It provided for appointed senators, among whom was the dictator himself; it set high quorums which would be required to modify its contents; and it established a dual electoral system that, by forcing the generation of two large electoral blocs, gave the right-wing minority the ability to prevent any change to the system. In short, the Constitution was designed to maintain a particular model of governance for a long time.
3) Its results. The people came to perceive that the constitution supported a system of privileges granted to the wealthy classes. In addition, it placed the management of various social services such as education, health and welfare in the hands of the private sector. In this way, rentier capitalism was established, not one based on social solidarity.