Jurors counting the vote of the constitution referendum in Santiago, Chile Jurors counting the vote of the constitution referendum in Santiago, Chile 

Chileans voters reject proposed new constitution

A radical new Constitution designed to fundamentally change Chile has been decisively rejected by voters in a nationwide poll.

By James Blears

Opinion polls suggested that the new Constitution proposals would be turned down, but in the event, almost sixty-two percent of voters in Chile rejected it in a plebiscite which was compulsory.

This was designed to replace the strictures imposed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship era of President Agusto Pinochet. It came after student-led protests in 2019, following significant increases in public transportation fares, which then escalated into demands for greater social equality, especially for Chile's have-nots.

In October 2020, eighty percent of voters wanted a new Constitution established, so an elected group of 154 people set to work in a project, culminating in this ambitious draft.

It has 388 proposals which incorporate free education, housing benefits, fairer pensions, a national public health system, gender equality, public companies, autonomous indigenous territories coupled with an alternate justice system and major environmental laws.

Gabriel Boric, aged 36, who is the youngest ever President and took office in March, had supported the package, but now acknowledges it is back to the drawing board. The option is to either amend the proposals or scrap the entire program and start all over again from scratch. He will now meet with representatives of political parties to take a new path from a crossroads.

"The people were not satisfied with the constitutional proposal that the convention had presented," he acknowledged. "There will be adjustments to our governing team. It's necessary to work with more determination, more dialogue, and more respect."

One immediate task will be to discover and assess exactly why voters so decisively rejected the new Constitution, which sought to apply and administer broad brush strokes of categorical and fundamental change.

A more practical set of proposals, with more moderate recommendations and the ability to actually finance them is now likely to be pursued and sought, because building a bridge to span a gulf by uniting political consensus has not yet been found.

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05 September 2022, 15:00