Chileans overwhelmingly reject proposed new Constitution

Chileans overwhelmingly reject proposed new Constitution


Chileans overwhelmingly rejected on Sunday the proposal for a new constitution which aimed to replace the one inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), according to partial results relating to the counting of 88% of the ballots of vote. 

Some 62% of voters, or nearly 7 million people, slipped the “I reject” ballot, compared to 4.2 million (38%) who favored the “I approve” ballot in this compulsory vote referendum.< /p>

This unambiguous choice suspends, at least temporarily, the process of a new Constitution started after the violent popular uprising of 2019 calling for more social justice.

A first referendum in October 2020 had however clearly called for the drafting of a new fundamental text (79%), the current Constitution then being considered as a brake on any substantive social reform.

But the the result of a year of work by the 154 members of a Constituent Assembly, elected in May 2021 to draft the proposal, it seems to have greatly shaken up the conservatism of a major part of Chilean society.

< p>The proposed constitution sought to establish a gallery of new social rights in an ultra-liberal society, with strong social inequalities, and intended to guarantee Chilean citizens the right to education, public health, retirement and a decent housing.

The inscription in stone of the right to abortion, a subject that is debated in the country where abortion has only been authorized since 2017 in the event of rape or danger to the the mother or the child, or the recognition of new rights for indigenous peoples, has tensed the often heated debates in a campaign bathed in a climate of misinformation.

This rejection does not mean the freezing of all reforms.

According to Cecilia Osorio, of the University of Chile, “there is a consensus that the 1980 Constitution is no longer valid and that we should move on” establishing new “social, political and economic rights”.

“It's a defeat for the refoundation of Chile,” said Javier Macaya, president of the ultra-conservative UDI party at a press conference. “We are going to continue with the will to continue the constituent process”, as the opposition had promised.

President Gabriel Boric had anticipated this setback and announced that he would ask Parliament to launch a new constitutional process starting from “zero”, with the election of a new constituent assembly to draft a new text.

The left-wing president elected in December 2021 was among the first to vote, with his father and brother, in the city of Punta Arenas, in the far south of the country, facing the Strait of Magellan.

< p>“In Chile, we must resolve our differences with more democracy, never with less. I am very proud that we have come this far,” he tweeted.

Former President Michelle Bachelet, who has just left her post as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights de l'homme in Geneva, where she voted, and who remains very popular in her country, had warned that in the event of rejection, “the requests of Chileans will remain unsatisfied”.

Like her, some 100,000 Chileans living abroad were called upon to vote on Sunday, for them voluntarily.

“It is essential that change takes place and that we seize these opportunities that are data,” Karina Pinto, a 33-year-old stylist who voted in Paris, told AFP, where the “I approve” largely won.

The desire for change perceived abroad and in the capital Santiago, especially among young people, was not enough to reverse the feeling of rejection that the text inspired “in the south and north of the country”, according to Marta Lagos , sociologist and founder of the Mori polling institute.

According to her, the supporters of the “no” vote form a “very heterogeneous” group with a strong “populist” fiber fueled by the “fear” of even dispossessed.

These two regions are experiencing serious problems of violence and insecurity. In the south, due to conflicts over land claimed by radical indigenous Mapuche groups and, in the north, due to the influx of migrants, problems of poverty and human trafficking.

“No one expected this gap of more than 20 percentage points,” she wrote on Twitter, calling the result a “resounding failure.”

“Many people prefer the rejection, because they are afraid of change,” Alfredo Tolosa, a 47-year-old worker in a timber yard in Tucapel, a town of 13,000 inhabitants in the Biobio region (south), said on Sunday during his vote.