Chileans strongly reject new progressive constitution

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SANTIAGO, Chile – Chileans have vehemently rejected a new constitution to replace a charter imposed by General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship 41 years ago, dealing a bitter setback to President Gabriel Boric who argued the document would have ushered in a new era progressive.

With 99% of votes counted in Sunday’s plebiscite, the rejecting camp won 61.9% support to 38.1% for approval amid high turnout with long lines in states electoral. Voting was compulsory.

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

Boric, who lobbied for the new document, said the results clearly showed that the Chilean people “were not satisfied with the constitutional proposal that the convention presented to Chile”.

Most Chileans support amending the dictatorship-era constitution and Boric made it clear that the amending process will not end with Sunday’s vote. He said it was necessary for leaders to “work with more determination, more dialogue, more respect” to come up with a new charter proposal “that unites us as a country”.

The rejection was widely expected in the country of 19million, as months of pre-election polls showed Chileans had been wary of the draft charter drafted by a constituent assembly in which a majority of delegates were unaffiliated. to a political party.

Carlos Salinas, spokesperson for the House of Citizens for Rejection, said the majority of Chileans see rejection as “a path of hope”.

“We want to tell the government of President Gabriel Boric (…) that today you must be the president of all Chileans and together we must move forward,” he said.

Despite wide expectations of defeat from the proposed new charter, no analyst or pollster had predicted such a wide margin for the rejecting side, showing how unwilling Chileans were to support a charter that would have been the one of the most progressive in the world and would have fundamentally changed the South American country.

The proposed document was the first in the world to be drafted by a convention split equally between male and female delegates, but critics said it was too long, lacked clarity and went too far in some of its measures, including characterizing Chile as a plurinational country. the state, the establishment of autonomous indigenous territories and the priority given to the environment and gender parity.

“The constitution that has been drafted leans too far to one side and does not have the vision of all Chileans,” Roberto Briones, 41, said after casting his vote in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We all want a new constitution, but it needs to have a better structure.”

But others had fervently hoped it would pass.

Italo Hernández, 50, said he supported the changes as he walked out of the polling station at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We must leave behind Pinochet’s constitution which only favored people with money.”

Hernández said it was “very symbolic and very emotional” to vote in a stadium that had been used as a place of detention and torture during the military dictatorship.

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

What is happening now amounts to a big question mark. Chilean political leaders on all sides agree that the constitution which dates from the country’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 must change. The process that will be chosen to draft a new proposal has yet to be determined and will likely be the subject of tough negotiations among the country’s political leaders.

Boric has summoned the leaders of all political parties to a meeting tomorrow to determine the way forward.

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 in student-led street protests in 2019. The unrest was sparked by a rise in public transport prices, but it soon spread to broader demands for greater equality and more social protections.

The following year, just under 80% of Chileans voted in favor of changing the country’s constitution. Then in 2021, they elected delegates to a constitutional convention.

The proposed charter in 388 articles, in addition to focusing on social issues and the environment, also introduced rights to free education, health care and housing. It would have established self-governing indigenous territories and recognized a parallel justice system in those areas, though lawmakers would decide the scope of that ruling.

In contrast, the current constitution is a market-friendly document that favors the private sector over the state in areas such as education, pensions and health care. It also makes no reference to the country’s indigenous population, which makes up almost 13% of the population.

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