Two days after Chileans categorically rejected the new constitution, President Gabriel Borek is changing his cabinet as he attempts to navigate a new period of uncertainty.
On Sunday, 62% of Chileans voted against a Progressive new constitution That would have replaced the current document that was drafted under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in a historic referendum.
The result was a fatal blow to Borek, 36, and his younger generation of left-wing leaders. As the fallout begins, uncertainty and political bickering grip Chile as the country’s future comes under the microscope.
“This is one of the toughest moments I’ve faced politically,” the president said on Tuesday as he unveiled changes to his senior team.
Six new ministers were appointed, including the Secretary General of the Presidency, and the Ministers of Energy, Health, Science and Social Development.
The changes maintain a female majority in Borek’s government, but tip the balance toward the more moderate Social Democratic bloc – and away from the younger generation of politicians and former student leaders who emerged as Chile’s youngest-ever president in December’s elections.
Carolina Toha, the esteemed former mayor of Santiago, has been replaced by Interior Minister Izekia Sechesis, who became the first woman to hold the position when Borek took office in March.
Tohá is a leading figure in the center-left Party for Democracy, one of the groups that formed a broad centrist coalition to guide Chile through its delicate transition to democracy in the 1990s and 2000s.
“Following the referendum result, it is clear that these young politicians need the help of the older generation to improve their relationship with the opposition,” said Miguel Angel Lopez, an academic at the University of Chile’s School of Government.
“Borek still has the opportunity to implement the changes, but they will not be framed in the drastic way his agenda originally described.”
The 1980 constitution remains in effect while leaders seek consensus on the path.
The coordinators of the successful “No” campaign have called for a new constitutional process, but that would require a four-sevenths majority to be reached in both houses of Chile’s Congress before a new congress could be elected to draft a new proposal.
Borek reiterated his commitment to continuing constitutional reform efforts, and called leaders of the country’s political parties to a meeting in La Moneda on Tuesday.
The proposed constitution, which now has no legal status, was drawn up over a year of difficult negotiations through a gender equality pact and introduced in July.
He enshrined gender equality and reproductive rights, promised action on climate change, and recognized Chile’s indigenous peoples constitutionally for the first time in the country’s history.
But these values are not guaranteed to be carried over.
“None of these elements are guaranteed to be part of a new constitutional process,” said Tanya Bosch-Venthor, a constitutional expert at Andrés Bello University in Santiago.
“The only thing we know for sure at the moment is that any changes will have to be made according to the rules set out in the 1980 constitution, and will depend on the will of the politicians.”
The campaign against the constitutional proposal managed to garner broad support by questioning the shake-up of the political and judicial systems, and by criticizing some of the rights promised to the Chileans.
More than 13 million people voted on Sunday as part of a typical election process, bolstering widespread dissatisfaction with the proposal drafted by the convention.
However, in October 2020, 78% of Chileans They voted for a new constitution.
Although that enthusiasm appears to have evaporated, many Chileans still support a new constitution – not just the proposal presented to them in a referendum on Sunday.
It now falls to Borek to guide Chile through a new chapter in a turbulent period for the country and reach an agreement that can win the support of society as a whole.