Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: The challenges of institutional organization in the new Constitution

Advancing certain guidelines for institutional design, taking into consideration the main challenges that affect our political system, is the objective of the text ‘Institutional organization. Criteria for Constitutional Deliberation ‘presented by academics from the UC Constitutional Forum.

Eight UC academics make up the Institutional Organization committee of the UC Constitutional Forum , an entity that recently released the document ‘ Institutional Organization. Criteria for Constitutional Deliberation ‘ . The text addresses, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the general criteria to consider when establishing state institutions in the new Magna Carta, taking into account the political and constitutional development of Chile, its political culture, international commitments and the progress of the Public Law.

The commission was directed by Marisol Peña (Faculty of Law), and made up of Matías Bargsted (Institute of Sociology); Gonzalo Candia (Faculty of Law); Loreto Cox (School of Government); Emilio Depetris (Institute of Economics); Valeria Palanza (Institute of Political Science); Sebastián Soto (Faculty of Law); and José Antonio Viera-Gallo (Center for Public Policies). The technical secretary was Simón Pinto.

The text is divided into two parts: the first gives an account of the situation that triggered the constituent process, emphasizing the imbalance that has been created between the institutions and the citizens and that results in a strong crisis of trust. The second, advances certain guidelines that can serve the institutional design, taking into consideration the main challenges that affect the political system.

“The text considers the circumstances that have generated a crisis of confidence in public institutions and that finds its origin in the inability of those to resolve citizen concerns. Also, in having been permeable to phenomena such as corruption and irregular financing of politics, “says the head of the commission, Professor Marisol Peña.

“The text considers the circumstances that have generated a crisis of confidence in public institutions and that finds its origin in the inability of those to resolve citizen concerns” – Marisol Peña, UC Law academic

The great challenge, she assures us, is “to re-legitimize our institutions in their role of channeling the political process while also ensuring democratic governance.” For this, he adds, it is necessary that the constitutional design of public institutions “obey principles such as transparency and adequate fiscal responsibility, together with criteria such as participation and regionalization that specify the necessary autonomy of regional governments.”

Along the same lines, the director of the Forum, Professor Alejandra Ovalle, affirms: “We cannot lose sight of the institutional dimension of the crisis that gives rise to the constituent process. This work, which brings together contributions from academics from different disciplines, invites us to reflect on the current situation of our institutionality, and the way in which the new Constitution can contribute to overcoming its deficit of representation and effectiveness ”.

Criteria for the regulation of institutions in Chile
Regarding the proposed criteria in the document, which seek to promote the idea of ​​the State as an articulated and balanced institutional system, it is recommended as a first measure the consecration of the principle of transparency at the constitutional level accompanied by the explicit recognition of the right of access to the public information and regulations pertaining to the relationship between politics and money, both in the financing of electoral campaigns and in the adoption of public decisions.

Regarding the capacity for institutional response to citizen needs, the necessary agility of institutions to respond to demands is highlighted, the increase in accountability mechanisms to favor technical contributions in decision-making, the constitutional regulation of the bases of the civil service career and the review of the mechanisms that govern the election of Ministers of the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the Comptroller General of the Republic, the National Prosecutor and the counselors of the Central Bank.

“This work, which brings together contributions from academics from different disciplines, invites us to reflect on the current situation of our institutionality, and the way in which the new Constitution can contribute to overcoming its deficit of representation and effectiveness” – Alejandra Ovalle, Law academic UC


Regarding political parties, it seeks to establish a constitutional regulation that encourages their formation and development, while the candidacies of independents must be promoted under the principle of equality in the presentation of candidates and participation in electoral processes, as well as in the use similar rules of responsibility and accountability as those required of political parties.

It is also proposed to persevere in the representative model of participation, incorporating formulas of direct democracy at the national, regional and municipal levels and of citizen participation in decisions that will directly affect their way of life and daily life.

The text also refers to Regional Governments, which must acquire real autonomy and an adequate and transparent management of financial resources, in addition to incorporating alternative methods of conflict resolution, such as mediation and an Ombudsman or ‘Ombudsman’.

Regarding the government system, the future structure must respond to the Chilean tradition of exercising power and the results of its implementation; have mechanisms that facilitate institutional dialogue between the Executive Power and the Legislative Power; have institutional formulas to manage eventual political crises; and make it easier for the voter to identify the person responsible for political decisions.

Finally, it is considered to enshrine the principle of fiscal responsibility in the new Constitution.

It is essential, the document concludes, that the new Magna Carta be the result of a coherent design between its various parts and provisions, both with regard to the principles that inspire it and the formulation of the guarantee of the rights it recognizes and the conformation of the institutions in charge of the functioning of the public apparatus, safeguarding these principles and making the recognized rights a reality in the changing circumstances of the historical process.

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