Chile’s new constitution: Voters overwhelmingly reject referendum proposal

With nearly all ballots counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal with 38% voting in favor, according to the Chile Electoral Service.

The proposed constitution, which has the support of leftist President Gabriel Boric, includes 388 articles that would significantly expand social rights, increase environmental regulation and give the government greater responsibility for welfare programs. society. It would also have provided full gender equality and added designated seats for indigenous representatives.

The document was rejected in all of Chile’s provinces, including the more progressive capital of Santiago and its metropolitan area, where voters overwhelmingly supported Boric last December during the presidential election.

Boric responded to the defeat in a live nationally televised address after the polls closed on Sunday.

“Today the people of Chile spoke, and they did it loud and clear,” Boric said. “They gave us two messages. The first is that they love and value their democracy … The second is that the people of Chile are not satisfied with the proposed constitution and, therefore, have decided to reject it in a clear way in vote.”

Photos from Santiago on Sunday show a sad state among supporters of the constitution, while others celebrated the news that it had been voted down.

The constitution that currently exists was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990. Proponents of the new constitution want a break from Chile’s authoritarian past and a document that shows of the interests of the communities which, according to them, have been ignored.

Why change the constitution?

The proposed change was initiated in 2020 when then-president Sebastien Piñera called a referendum on the creation of a new constitution amid social unrest and popular discontent caused by metro fare increases in October 2019.

In October 2020, over 78% of Chilean voters approved a plebiscite proposing constitutional change, and in June 2021, they voted again to choose members for a constituent assembly.

The Constitutional Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender equality and the first in the country’s history to include designated seats for indigenous representatives.

Supporters hope its progressive stance will be reflected in a new, updated constitution.

And the constitutional process itself has been praised worldwide for giving the country an institutional way out of a social crisis, and for responding to the demands of modern Chileans for greater equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.

According to University of Chile professor Robert Funk, getting rid of the remnants of the past imposed by Pinochet was a key driver for the creation of a new constitution.

“The existing constitution in Chile was originally written in 1980 under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Since then, it has been amended many, many times; but it has always been questioned because it was imposed during a dictatorship,” Funk said.

Road to denial

After much deliberation, the final draft of the revised constitution was submitted to Boric, Piñera’s successor, in July of this year.

But even though a majority of Chilean voters supported the idea of ​​changing the constitution in October 2020, divisions emerged over the proposed draft.

Shortly after the draft was made public, various polls began to show an increasing trend towards rejecting the charter, with the government publicly acknowledging that situation.

The defeated constitution would have been one of the most progressive in the world, giving the state a front-line role in providing social rights.

Chile is voting on one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.  But the consensus crumbled

The draft placed a strong emphasis on indigenous self-determination and environmental protection, and would have undermined the highly privatized system of water rights. It requires gender equality in all public institutions and companies, and affirms respect for sexual diversity. It also envisions a new national health care system.

But the project was a bitter parting.

The right argued that the draft would move the country too far to the left, or that it was too ambitious and cumbersome to be good laws. In the lead-up to the poll, even some of its supporters on the left wanted to make adjustments, with their slogan “approved reform.”

The opposition has promised to start a new process to rewrite the constitution, promising voters that the next one will better reflect their interests.

In his speech on Sunday, Boric signaled that this was not the end of efforts towards reform.

“This decision of the men and women of Chile requires our institutions and political actors to work more, with more dialogue, with more respect and care, until we arrive at a proposal that defines us all, that is trustworthy, that unites us as a nation,” said Boric.

CNN’s Michelle Velez, Daniela Mohor W. and Jorge Engels contributed to this report.