The new constitution, focused on social rights, the environment, gender parity and indigenous rights, would have replaced Chile's dictatorship-era market-friendly current text.
Chileans have resoundingly rejected a new constitution to replace a charter imposed by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet 41 years ago, dealing a stinging setback to President Gabriel Boric, who argued the document would have ushered in a progressive era.
With 96 percent of the votes counted in Sunday’s plebiscite, the rejection camp had 61.9 percent support compared to 38.1 percent for approval amid what appeared to be a heavy turnout with long lines at polling states. Voting was mandatory.
The approval camp conceded defeat, with its spokesman Vlado Mirosevic saying, “We recognise this result and we listen with humility to what the Chilean people have expressed.”
The new constitution, focused on social rights, the environment, gender parity and indigenous rights, would replace the current market-friendly text dating back to the Pinochet dictatorship. The new text stemmed from an agreement between lawmakers and protesters to quell violent protests against inequality in 2019.
The proposed charter was the first in the world to be written by a convention split equally between male and female delegates, but critics said it was too long, lacked clarity and went too far in some of its measures, which included characterising Chile as a plurinational state, establish autonomous Indigenous territories, and prioritise the environment.
Chile pic.twitter.com/3gBwaTmujh— Hector (@Zed_85) September 5, 2022
While nearly 80 percent of Chileans voted to draft a new constitution in late 2020, the rejection of the document was broadly expected in this country of 19 million. Months of pre-election polling had shown Chileans had grown wary of the document that was written up by a constituent assembly in which a majority of delegates were not affiliated with a political party.
“Today we’re consolidating a great majority of Chileans who saw rejection as a path of hope,” said Carlos Salinas, a spokesman for the Citizens’ House for Rejection. “We want to tell the government of President Gabriel Boric ... that today you must be the president of all Chileans and together we must move forward.”
In Santiago, opponents of Chile’s proposed constitution are already celebrating. With 23 percent of the ballot boxes counted, rejection is leading at 63 percent, versus 37 percent in favor of the charter. pic.twitter.com/sD6fDeRHlB— Samantha Schmidt (@schmidtsam7) September 4, 2022
More than 15 million Chileans and residents were eligible to vote across more than 3,000 voting centers. These included the national stadium in Santiago, where Rosemarie Williamson, 54, and her mother, 85, voted to reject the new constitution.
Williamson, who had voted 'yes' in 2020, cited worries over several proposals.
"The main one is (indigenous) plurinationality and then pension funds," she said. "I've worked my whole life and I'm not willing to share that."
Diego Uribe, 35, a father of two who does not normally vote because he has lost faith in political parties, voted 'yes' in Puente Alto, a lower-income region in southern Santiago.
"Approval is real change for the future, free education, dignified health care and more rights."
Boric's office confirmed to Reuters that he had called a meeting with political parties on Monday. Boric vowed to govern with unity after he voted in the southern city of Punta Arenas early on Sunday.
No matter the outcome, he said, the government will work with all sectors to "advance in justice, equality, growth and development for everyone."
Some polls from outside the country, including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and China, have already closed and show a favorable lead for the new text. Votes from Chileans living overseas historically skew more progressive than the rest of the electorate.
If the text is rejected, Boric has said, the process should restart to fulfill the mandate given by the 2020 vote to draft a new constitution. Other political figures have said the current constitution should be amended since lawmakers recently reduced the quorums needed to make changes.