With nearly all votes counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal with 38% voting in favour, according to the Chilean Election Service.
The proposed constitution, which had the support of leftist President Gabriel Borek, contained 388 articles that would significantly expand social rights, increase environmental regulation and give the government broader responsibility for social welfare programmes. It would also have provided full gender parity and added seats reserved for indigenous representatives.
The document was rejected in all Chilean provinces, including the more progressive capital Santiago and the metropolitan area, where voters overwhelmingly supported Borek last December during the presidential election.
Borich responded to the defeat in a live televised address to the nation after polls closed on Sunday.
“Today the people of Chile spoke, and they did it loud and clear,” Borek said. “They sent us two messages. The first is that they love and value their democracy…The second is that the people of Chile were not satisfied with the proposed constitution, and therefore decided to reject in a clear way. At the polls.”
Pictures from Santiago on Sunday show a gloomy mood among supporters of the constitution, while others celebrate the news that the constitution has been voted against.
The constitution currently in force was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990. Supporters of the new constitution wanted a break from Chile’s authoritarian past and a document that reflected the interests of societies that, according to them, had been ignored.
Why change the constitution?
The proposed change began in 2020 when then-President Sebastian Pinera called a referendum on a new constitution amid social unrest and popular discontent caused by a metro fare increase in October 2019.
The Constitutional Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender equality and the first in the country’s history to have seats reserved for indigenous representatives.
Supporters had hoped that her progressive stance would be reflected in a new and updated constitution.
The constitutional process itself has been lauded internationally for giving an institutional way out of a social crisis, responding to contemporary Chileans’ demands for greater equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.
According to professor at the University of Chile Robert Funk, the removal of the remnants of the past imposed by Pinochet was a major impetus for a new constitution.
“The current constitution in Chile was originally written in 1980 under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Since then, it has been amended many times; but it has always been in question because it was imposed during a dictatorship,” Funk said.
The path of rejection
But although most Chilean voters supported the idea of a constitutional change in October 2020, divisions emerged over the proposed draft.
Soon after the draft was announced, various opinion polls began to show a growing trend toward rejecting the charter, with the government publicly acknowledging this scenario.
The defeated constitution would have been one of the most advanced in the world, giving the state a front-line role in providing social rights.
The draft placed a strong emphasis on indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and environmental protection, and would have dismantled the highly privatized system of water rights. It has required gender equality in all public institutions and corporations, and enshrined respect for sexual diversity. He also envisioned a new national healthcare system.
But the project It became bitterly divisive.
The right argued that the draft would turn the country far left, or that it was too ambitious and difficult to turn into effective laws. In the lead-up to the vote, even some of his supporters on the left wanted amendments, with their slogan “Agree to reform.”
The opposition vowed to begin a new process of rewriting the constitution, and promised voters that the next phase would better reflect their interests.
In his speech on Sunday, Borek indicated that this is not the end of efforts toward 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 come to a proposal that interprets us all, that is trustworthy, and unites us as a nation,” Borek said.
Michelle Velez and Daniela Mohor contributed to this report. and George Engels from CNN.
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