Chile referendum: Voters decisively reject new egalitarian constitution


SANTIAGO, Chile — Chileans on Sunday vehemently opposed a new leftist constitution aimed at transforming the country into a more egalitarian society.

In a referendum, Chilean voters were asked to approve or reject a proposal to replace the country’s 1980 dictatorship-era constitution – considered the world’s most market-friendly constitution – with one of the world’s most inclusive one.

The new charter envisages a dramatic shift to the left in the South American country, expanding the role of government and calling for an economic model that narrows inequality and helps lift the poor.

But for many Chileans, the proposed changes are too drastic. More than 95 percent of ballot boxes were counted on Sunday night, with about 62 percent of voters rejecting the charter, while 38 percent approved it, according to Chile’s electoral authority.

Voting results Ends an ambitious democratic experiment that was originally meant to unify a country in crisis. In 2019, protests erupted on the streets of Chile, driven by working and middle classes struggling with high prices and low wages. In a society long seen as a symbol of prosperity in the region, thousands of Chileans have expressed their anger at a government they believe has forgotten about them.

Politicians negotiated a solution to de-escalate the unrest: They promised to write a new constitution to replace the version drawn up under the brutal military regime. Augusto Pinochet. The following year, Chileans voted overwhelmingly to draft a new charter.

But instead of uniting the country, the process has divided it again.

This The colossal defeat dealt a painful blow to the country’s young leftist president, Gabriel Borric, Chile’s most left-leaning leader since Salvador Allende, who overthrew the military toppling the socialist government in 1973. Suicide in a coup.

Borrick, a 36-year-old former lawmaker who helped negotiate the deal to draft the constitution, promised voters last year that “if Chile is the cradle of neoliberalism, it will be its grave”. But the failure of the proposed constitution would make it harder for the president to execute his bold agenda.

Now he and his country are about to start from scratch, it emerged Sunday night. To write a new charter, constitutional experts say, Chileans may have to take the matter to Congress, launch new elections for the new parliament and start the drafting process all over again.

The redo is the exact result many Chileans were hoping for. In a hotel in Santiago on Sunday night, a group of anti-Charter people waved Chilean flags in the air and chanted: “Chile is and will be a free country!”

Chileans vote in September. 4 On a progressive new constitution that would dramatically change a country once seen as a free-market model. (Video: Reuters)

The 388-article document has been strongly criticized for being too long, too left-leaning and too radical in its economic, judicial and political proposals. Like other high-profile referendums around the world – from Colombia’s peace deal to Brexit – this debate has been marred by misinformation, disinformation and confusion over the interpretation of such a detailed document.

However, many of the concerns center on the core issue of national identity. The proposal describes Chile as a “multi-ethnic” state of self-governing indigenous peoples and communities.

“It divided Chile, Chile is one country,” said María Yefe, a 65-year-old housekeeper who voted against the constitution in the capital Santiago on Sunday. “We will be more divided than we are now.”

At the same polling station, 42-year-old María Barros, a mother of two, captured the feeling of many across the country: “Chileans agree that we need to change the constitution,” she said. “But not so.”

After voting in his hometown of Punta Arenas, a city near the southern tip of Chile’s Patagonia region, on Sunday, Boric was asked by reporters if he would call for a vote against the proposed constitution. A political agreement was reached to begin the rewrite. The president pledged to “convene broad national unity … and move forward with the process.”

“This is a historic moment, and I think it’s important that we all be very proud of our choices,” Borrick said. “In the difficult times we are going through as a nation, we have chosen a path as a way to resolve our differences, making progress on more democracy, not less democracy.”

Chile’s bold experiment: a divided nation votes on new constitution

This The proposal would embody certain civil rights never enshrined in the constitution, emphasizing many of the priorities of the leftist social movement led by young Chileans: gender equality, environmental protection, indigenous and LGBTQ rights, and legal access to abortion.

It will guarantee access to high-quality education, healthcare and water. It would grant rights to nature and animals and require governments to tackle the effects of climate change. It is considered the first constitution to require gender equality in government and between public and private companies.

For Nel González, a 36-year-old woman who voted in the city center, the proposal raises the possibility of a new type of government that prioritizes people’s social rights.

“Today is a promising day for Chile,” she said. “At stake is the constitution of a more democratic and egalitarian country.”

It was written by an unusually elected convention that drew participants and political newcomers from across the country who rarely felt represented in national politics. The 155-member Constituent Assembly is composed of men and women equally and reserves 17 seats for the country’s 10 indigenous communities.

But it is largely made up of independent and left-leaning members and faces criticism from those who say parliament has neglected to adopt conservative views.

The convention has also been plagued by controversies that have fueled a campaign to discredit it. A prominent delegate was elected to the General Assembly on the grounds of a commitment to free, high-quality health care, citing his own experience with leukemia. But after news broke that he was feigning illness, he resigned.

Chile has a sober constitution. Are Chileans ready?

Still, the assembly marked the first time a group of elected people sat down — in a transparent and open process — to draft a constitution for the country.

“This constitution was made by elected people, by ordinary people, by ordinary people. That gives it enormous value,” said Mario Opazo, 59, who voted for the constitution in downtown San Diego on Sunday. proposal. “It may have some imperfections, but most of it was built with the will and will of the people of this country.”

Alberto Lyon, a lawyer who voted in the wealthy neighborhood of Las Condes, said he voted for a new constitution. “But I think they will have a Western constitution,” the 66-year-old said. He described the proposed version as “nativist” and “Venezuela-style”.

“It was a disaster,” Lyon said. “It changed the entire political system.”

For Barbara Sepulveda, Sunday’s vote was a vote on a document she helped write. Despite the defeat, the 37-year-old leftist constitutional representative said: “I can’t help but feel like I’m part of progress, part of victory.”

“In a country where it seems like nothing can change,” she said, “we now see that anything is possible.”

John Bartlett contributed to this report.

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