Chileans Reject New Progressive Constitution

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SANTIAGO, Chile (TBEN) — Chileans resolutely rejected a new constitution to replace a charter imposed 41 years ago by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, a painful setback for President Gabriel Boric, who claimed the document was a progressive era would have ushered in.

With 96% of votes counted in Sunday’s plebiscite, the rejection camp had 61.9% support compared to 38.1% for approval amid what appeared to be a heavy turnout with long lines at polling stations. Voting was mandatory.

The approval camp admitted its defeat and its spokesman Vlado Mirosevic said: “We recognize this result and we listen with humility to what the Chilean people have said.”

The rejection of the document was widely expected in this country of 19 million, as months of election polls showed that Chileans had become wary of the document drafted by a Constituent Assembly in which a majority of deputies were not affiliated with any political party. side. party.

“Today we consolidate a large majority of Chileans who saw rejection as a path of hope,” said Carlos Salinas, a spokesman for the Citizens’ House for Rejection. “We want to tell the administration of President Gabriel Boric… that ‘today you must be the president of all Chileans and together we must move forward’.

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Supporters of the rejection option react to early results of the referendum on a new Chilean constitution in Santiago, Chile, Sept. 4, 2022. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Ivan Alvarado via Reuters

Despite these expectations, no analyst or pollster could have predicted such a large margin for the rejection camp, demonstrating how Chileans were not ready to support a charter that would have been one of the most progressive in the world and fundamentally empowered the South American. have changed.

The proposed charter was the first in the world to be written by a convention split equally between male and female delegates, but critics said it was too long, unclear and went too far in some of its measures, including characterizing Chile. as a plurinational state, establishing autonomous indigenous territories and prioritizing the environment.

The result is a major blow to Boric, who at 36 is Chile’s youngest president ever. He had tied his fortunes so closely to the new document that analysts said some voters likely saw the plebiscite as a referendum on his government at a time when his approval numbers have plummeted since he took office in March.

What happens next is a big question mark. Chilean society in general and all political leaders agree that the constitution dating from the 1973-1990 dictatorship must change. The process that will be chosen to draft a new proposal has yet to be determined and is likely to be the subject of hard-fought negotiations between the country’s political leaders.

The vote marked the culmination of a three-year process that began when the country, once seen as a paragon of stability in the region, exploded into student-led street protests in 2019. The unrest was fueled by a rise in public transport prices. , but it quickly expanded to broader demands for greater equality and greater social protection.

The following year, just under 80% of Chileans voted to change the country’s constitution. They then elected delegates to a constitutional convention in 2021.

The 388-article proposed charter was intended to emphasize social issues and gender equality, enshrine the rights of the country’s indigenous people, and put the environment and climate change at the center of a country that is the world’s largest copper producer. It also introduced the right to free education, health care and housing.

The new constitution would have created autonomous indigenous territories and recognized a parallel justice system in those areas, although lawmakers would decide how far that would go.

In contrast, the current constitution is a market-friendly document that favors the private sector over the state in education, pensions and health care. Nor does it refer to the country’s indigenous population, who make up nearly 13% of the population.