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Tags: chile | vote | constitution

Voters in Chile Nix Second Shot at New Constitution

Sunday, 17 December 2023 10:11 PM EST

Chilean voters on Sunday rejected a proposed new constitution drafted by a conservative-led committee, election officials said, meaning the charter imposed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet will remain in force.

With 99% of referendum ballots counted, the "against" option prevailed with 55.75% of the vote, compared to 44.25% in favor, according to electoral service Servel just hours after voting ended around 6 p.m.

Four years after Chile launched its constitutional reform process in response to massive protests that broke out in 2019 and following two failed draft efforts, the country is back at square one.

The latest version of a new proposed constitution was overseen by the far-right opposition Republican Party after voters roundly rejected a progressive draft in September 2022 that attempted to enshrine environmental protections and the right to elective abortion.

Leftist President Gabriel Boric said last month this would be his last attempt to reform the constitution, in order to focus on stability and long-term development. And on Sunday, he reiterated the message.

"With this — during this mandate — the constitutional process is closed. There are other urgent matters," Boric said Sunday night in remarks at La Moneda, the presidential palace.

"Our country will continue with the current constitution, because after two plebiscites on proposed constitutions, neither managed to represent or unite Chile in its beautiful diversity," added the president, who had supported the first proposal overseen by the left but remained neutral in the second effort.

The process to rewrite the 1980 constitution, adopted under the Pinochet military dictatorship, began as a bid to ease mass protests that broke out in 2019 against social inequality.

In a 2020 referendum, 80% voted for replacing the constitution.

However, in the years since, enthusiasm has been dampened by the pandemic, inflation and economic stagnation, a growing sense of insecurity, and voter fatigue.

"There is not much spirit, as this is an exhausting process," information technology worker Nicolas Mora, 29, said after voting.

Paulina Salas, a 56-year-old homemaker, said she hopes that after this vote Chile can return to calm.

There is a need for "stability, that people can go back to work, to have safety with regard to their job and everyday life," Salas said.

'Even More to the Right'

The opposition presented the vote as a referendum on Boric, who rode the wave of public discontent to be elected Chile's youngest-ever leader in 2021 at 35.

Boric, whose approval has plummeted to around 30%, had already suffered a setback in May when Chile's far-right Republican Party came in first in a nationwide vote to choose the members of the constitution rewrite committee.

But the leader of the Republican Party, Jose Antonio Kast, said "there is nothing to celebrate" in Sunday's results.

"We failed in the effort to convince Chileans that this would be a better constitution than the existing one," he said, adding that "the government and the left cannot celebrate either."

The 1980 constitution is widely blamed for allowing companies and the elite to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, working classes.

The first rewrite included stronger protections for Indigenous rights and proposals to protect natural resources such as water, and required women to hold at least half of positions in public institutions.

Heiss said the latest rewrite "falls between the 1980 constitution and one even more to the right," especially on issues like abortion and public safety.

The new version would have aimed at enshrining the right to life from conception, which experts believe could lead to a challenge of existing laws.

Abortion was banned in Chile until 2017, when it was allowed in cases of rape, when the mother's life is at risk, or the fetus is declared unviable.

The new draft also would have allowed for the expulsion in "the shortest possible time" of undocumented immigrants, with the right blaming rising crime on an influx of Venezuelans fleeing economic crisis in their country.

The latest proposed constitution would have for the first time recognized Indigenous peoples, who make up 12% of the population, but did not address their request for greater autonomy.

© AFP 2024


Newsfront
Chilean voters on Sunday rejected a proposed new constitution drafted by a conservative-led committee, election officials said, meaning the charter imposed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet will remain in force.
chile, vote, constitution
680
2023-11-17
Sunday, 17 December 2023 10:11 PM
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