Chile votes overwhelmingly to reject new progressive constitution | Chile

Chileans voted comprehensively against a new progressive constitution that was drafted to replace the 1980 document that was written under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

With 96% of the votes counted in Sunday’s referendum, the rejection camp had 61.9% to 38.1% approval amid what appeared to be a huge turnout with long queues in polling states. Voting was mandatory.

Senator Jimena Rincon, one of the leaders of the Rejection campaign, called the victory “clear and certain” and called for a new constitutional convention.

The “consent” campaign has accepted defeat, and the country’s president, 36-year-old Gabriel Borek, has called a meeting of party leaders on Monday morning at the La Moneda presidential palace.

Chile's President, Gabriel Borek, speaks to the nation on Sunday night.
Chile’s President, Gabriel Borek, speaks to the nation on Sunday night. Photo: Marcelo Segura/Chilean Presidency/AFP/Getty Images

“I am committed to doing my best in building a new constitutional path alongside Congress and civil society,” Borek said in a televised address to the nation, stressing that he will meet with the heads of political parties and both houses of Congress Monday morning.

The 1980 document drawn up under Pinochet will now remain in force, and Chile’s future certainly seems uncertain.

In 2020, an initial public referendum saw nearly 80% of voters choose to draft a new constitution, but after a grueling year of negotiations, people seem to have expressed dissatisfaction with the final product.

As the results poured in and the rejectionist camp increasingly advanced, groups of jubilant rejected supporters thronged street corners and filled plazas across the country to celebrate their victory.

There were concerns that disgruntled supporters of consent might repeat it The 2019 demonstrations that started the constitutional reform process. But a crowd of no more than several hundred gathered in Santiago’s main square and they were quickly dispersed by police using water cannons and tear gas.

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People who support the new draft constitution accept defeat in Santiago.
People who support the new draft constitution accept defeat in Santiago. Photo: Javier Torres/AFP/Getty Images

The proposed constitution included a long list of social rights and guarantees that seemed to respond to the demands of this broad social movement.

enshrined gender equality across government and other state organs—for the first time anywhere in the world—prioritizing environmental protection and recognizing Chile’s indigenous peoples for the first time in the country’s history.

The decision to reject a constitution that guarantees women’s rights and gender equality was made 70 years since women were first granted the right to vote in Chile.

“This is a poorly written constitution,” said Carmen Fuentes, 61, who voted in a wealthy northeastern suburb of Santiago. “There has been division in this country for a long time, and this referendum is not going to change that.”

Many criticized the document’s guarantees to indigenous peoples, saying it would divide Chile. Others cautioned that shaking up the political system was unnecessary and empirical.

Downtown, others were more optimistic about the possibility of change, citing the need to rid Chile of the Pinochet-era constitution and the model it enshrined, and move to a more egalitarian and democratic future.

But that future now seems remote. Borek expressed his willingness to repeat the constitutional process, but the basis for the reform is still up for debate.

Some of the Constitution’s most prominent critics have debated allowing Congress to reform the 1980 document or involve experts in a new process, but details have been light on both sides, with neither side willing to commit to a potential path forward.

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