[JURIST] Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [official profile, in Spanish] announced [press release, in Spanish] on Wednesday the government has begun the process of drafting a new constitution. According to Bachelet the new constitution is necessary because the current version was created during a dictatorship and does not accurately reflect the ideals of democracy. She explained that although changes have been made to the document throughout the years, it continues to obstruct the exercise of democracy in the nation. The process will begin in the next few days with a stage of civic education for the people, expected to last until March 2016. The country will then host open citizen assemblies to discuss political ideas for the new constitution and these ideas will be considered by the president beginning October 2016. A draft of the new constitution will be presented to Congress in the second half of 2017.
The current version of Chile’s Constitution [Princeton backgrounder] was drafted in 1980, several years after General Augusto Pinochet took control of the government in 1973. A Constituent Commission, made up of lawyers, submitted recommendations for a new constitution to Augusto in 1978. The constitution was passed by a two-thirds popular vote in 1980, but there was no period of educating Chilean citizens on the new constitution. The vote was criticized for being fraudulent, but the constitution still went into effect in 1981.