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National Constituent Assembly: what it means and how the proposal made by Petro is processed

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National Constituent Assembly: what it means and how the proposal made by Petro is processed

The president spoke, for the first time since he was in power, of a National Constituent Assembly – credit Presidency of the Republic

Many Colombians are unaware of the concept of the National Constituent Assembly, which came to light after a statement made by President Gustavo Petro in Puerto Resistencia, in the south of Cali. During the speech, the Colombian leader stated that he is allegedly being persecuted by the institutions, which has prevented the reforms that it has proposed to date from not being approved.

“In my Government we are open to dialogue, but without naivety (…) If the possibility of a popularly elected government cannot apply the constitution because they are surrounded not to do so, then Colombia has to go to a National Constituent Assembly. “Colombia does not have to kneel, the 2022 victory is respected and the Assembly must transform the institutions.”

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The president spoke, for the first time since he was in power, of a National Constituent Assembly – credit Presidency of the Republic/YouTube

Remembering the history of the country, this body was established for the last time to reform the Political Constitution of 1886, which gave way to the Constitution of 1991. This Constitution established how it can be reformed:

In article 374, it was established that the Political Constitution may be reformed by the Congress of the Republic, by a Constituent Assembly or by the people through a referendum.

Furthermore, in article 376, it says that, thanks to the law approved by a majority of the members of both Chambers, Congress will be able to enable the people to decide by vote whether to convene an Assembly. “It will be understood that the people convene the Assembly, if it is approved by at least one third of the members of the electoral roll.”

The same article mentions that the Assembly must be elected by the vote of the citizens, in an electoral act, which cannot coincide with another. “As of the election, the ordinary power of Congress to reform the Constitution will be suspended during the period designated for the Assembly to fulfill its functions. The Assembly will adopt its own regulations.”

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The president spoke, for the first time since he was in power, of a National Constituent Assembly – credit Presidency of the Republic

This occurs through dialogue between different social sectors, but first it must have the approval of the Congress of the Republic and at least a third of the Colombians who make up the electoral census, which is currently close to 39 million, according to the data provided by the National Registry in October 2023. Which reveals that close to 13 million votes for the ‘Yes’ vote would be needed for it to prosper.

According to article 374, it can be reformed by Congress, through a constituent assembly or through a referendum.

In the first scenario; between the Senate of the Republic and the House of Representatives, a law must be approved to call elections. There citizens must vote on the call. Then, “the Assembly must be elected by the direct vote of the citizens, in an electoral act that cannot coincide with any other.”

For the Assembly to be convened, it must be accepted by a third of the members of the electoral roll. If the citizens accept the formation of the assembly, another call will be made to determine the people who will make up the seats, previously defined by the Congress of the Republic.

It is important to keep in mind that the approval of reforms to the Constitution is given through a referendum.

Upon being elected president, Gustavo Petro promised not to call a constituent assembly – credit social networks

In the 90s, when the president gave up his weapons and militancy of the M-19 thanks to a peace process, Petro and several of the leaders were part of the assembly that was convened during the administration of César Gaviria and that concluded in the creation of the Political Constitution that remains in force today.

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To date, Antonio Navarro Wolff, another former M-19 militant and today a member of the Green Alliance party, was one of the three presidents of the constituent assembly. And the other two have already died; Horacio Serpa and Álvaro Gómez.

Although for many Colombians and political sectors it is striking that when Gustavo Petro was in a political campaign he committed and signed a series of commitments in marble; among them is not to call a Constituent Assembly.

The political country rejected the president’s proposal to call a Constituent Assembly – credit

“I will not call a constituent assembly,” said the second point of the agreements assumed by the head of state.

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