The “rejection” wins in Chile and the Constitution of the Pinochet era will remain in force
(CNN) — Chile’s voters roundly rejected a new progressive constitution in a referendum on Sunday, following a nearly two-year process that aimed to reflect a broader range of voices in the nation’s document.
With almost all ballots counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal with only 38% voting in favor, according to Chile’s Electoral Service.
The proposed constitution, which had the support of leftist President Gabriel Boric, included 388 articles that would have significantly expanded social rights, increased environmental regulation, and given the government greater responsibility for social welfare programs. It would also have provided full gender parity and added appointed 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 had overwhelmingly supported Boric last December during presidential elections.
Boric responded to the defeat in a live televised address to the nation after voting closed on Sunday.
“Today the people of Chile have spoken and they have done so loudly and clearly. He has given us two messages: the first is that he loves and values his democracy, that he trusts it to overcome differences and move forward,” he said.
“The second message from the Chilean people is that they were not satisfied with the proposed Constitution that the Convention presented to Chile and therefore they have decided to clearly reject it at the polls.”
Images in Santiago on Sunday showed a somber mood among supporters of the constitution, while others celebrated the news that it had been rejected.
The current constitution in force was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990. Advocates of the new constitution wanted a break with Chile’s authoritarian past and a document that reflected the interests of the communities that , according to them, had been ignored.
Why change the constitution?
The proposed change was kicked off in 2020 when then-President Sebastián Piñera called a referendum to create a new constitution amid social upheaval and popular discontent sparked by an October 2019 metro fare hike.
In October 2020, more than 78% of Chilean voters approved a plebiscite proposing a constitutional change and in June 2021 they cast their vote again to elect the members of a constituent assembly.
The Constituent Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender parity and the first in the country’s history to include designated seats for indigenous representatives.
Supporters hoped their progressive stance would be reflected in a new, updated constitution.
And the constituent process itself was praised internationally for giving the country an institutional way out of a social crisis, and for responding to the demands of modern Chileans for more equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.
According to Robert Funk, a professor at the University of Chile, eliminating the remnants of the past imposed by Pinochet was a key factor in creating a new constitution.
“The current constitution in Chile was originally drafted in 1980 under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Since then, it has been amended many, many times, but it has always been challenged because it was imposed during a dictatorship,” Funk said.
road to rejection
After much deliberation, the final draft of the revised constitution was presented to Boric, Piñera’s successor, in July this year.
But although the majority of Chilean voters supported the idea of constitutional change in October 2020, divisions appeared on the proposed draft.
Shortly after the draft was made public, different polls began to show a growing trend towards rejecting the letter, and the government publicly acknowledged this scenario.
The defeated constitution would have been one of the most progressive in the world, giving the state a frontline role in providing social rights.
The draft placed a strong emphasis on indigenous self-determination and environmental protection, and would have dismantled the highly privatized water rights system. He had demanded gender equality in all public institutions and companies, and enshrined respect for sexual diversity. It also provided for a new national health system.
But the project turned bitterly divisive.
The right argued that the draft would shift the country too far to the left, or that it was too ambitious and difficult to translate into efficient law. In the run-up to the vote, even some of his left-wing supporters wanted adjustments made, with their slogan “pass the 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 pointed out that this was not the end of efforts towards reform.
“This decision by Chilean men and women requires our institutions and political actors to work harder, with more dialogue, with more respect and care, until we arrive at a proposal that interprets us all, that is trustworthy, that unites us. as a country,” Boric said.
CNN’s Michelle Velez, Daniela Mohor W. and Jorge Engels contributed to this report.