Chileans celebrate the rescission of the dictatorship’s constitution by a more than three-to-one referendum margin. Anonymous photo circulated widely in social media.
The constitution and the constituents
by Miguel Antonio Bernal
The concept of constituent power is born from the idea of the people; it is a power that includes the people and only makes sense as an expression of popular will. It was created for the people, as the concept of sovereignty had been created for the king.
Chilean citizens have exercised constituent power through their collective voluntary act of last Sunday, October 25. Finally, Chileans will be able to get rid of a constitution imposed by Pinochet’s military dictatorship. They will be able to originate a new legal order through a constituent assembly.
Thus, Chile provides an immediate example to Panamanians. We can take the hint and shed the lethargy. We can end the abuses that emanate from the constitution imposed by our country’s military dictatorship 48 years ago. The Chilean example also offers us the hope of a constituent process that leads to “the dawn of normality” since the constituent process, contrary to what is cheerfully affirmed, leads to order.
The legal order that arises from the exercise of full citizen participation through the different phases of the constituent process is the one that our political parties elude, avoid, obstruct by all means. It entails the beginning of the end of their monopoly of power and the corrupt practices and deceits that follow from it.
What is beginning to happen in Chile? After the overwhelming vote in favor of convening a constituent assembly, there will be the election of 155 constituents (with parity between men and women. There is also a mandate for indigenous representation. It is undoubtedly mortifying to those who in our sister country have exercised power behind the backs of its great majorities,
It may also convert their local kleptocrats, dynasts and faux populists into fugitives from the constituent process. They refuse to accept a fact that cannot be cloistered in existing legalisms. They can’t do without an imposed constitution that serves as a straitjacket to immobilize citizen power.
If “the Constitution is the door through which the Law enters the life of the State,” it should also be noted that “constitutionalization is a political process.” And a proper constitution is a guarantee against power. It is at this point that Chileans are giving us a great lesson by deciding on a Constitution that is not a guarantee for power like the current one, but a guarantee against the power of those who have have hijacked civic power for decades.
It is up to the men and women of our country to react – without a second thought – and to achieve our own true constituent process, one that aims to recognize and guarantee the dignity and democratic freedoms that belong to us and that are today being usurped.
We must repudiate collaboration with the party leaders and power brokers. We must reject the phony populist reformism advanced by this government and its satellites. It is up to us to fight for citizens’ power, not to be distracted by prefabricated dialogues and meaningless reforms that seek to varnish a militarist constitution that was imposed on us and, unfortunately, is still in force. Don’t let them get away with it! We want a referendum! We want a constituent assembly NOW!
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