Chileans on Sunday rejected a proposal for a new constitution to replace the one adopted during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.
Although the population voted for changes to Chile’s constitution in 2020, the proposed changes had proved unpopular with a large share of voters.
An overwhelming rejection
With almost all of the votes counted, the reject camp led with over 61.9% compared to almost 38.1% of those who voted yes.
The result is a far greater margin of victory than was predicted by opinion polls. These had suggested that voters would reject the constitution by up to 10 percentage points.
Leftist President Gabriel Boric, who supported the new text, accepted the defeat but pledged to press ahead with constitutional changes.
He said Chileans had demonstrated “that they want and value democracy, they are counting on it to overcome our differences and to progress.”
The constitution was drafted after political and social unrest swept through Chile in 2019.
Some 80% of Chileans voted to draw up a new constitution in late 2020. However, the last poll ahead of the referendum suggested that 47% of voters intend to reject the proposed constitution compared with 38% for yes and 17% undecided.
Speaking after the referendum result, Boric said it remained clear that people wanted urged “all political forces to put Chile ahead of any legitimate differences and agree as soon as possible on the deadlines and parameters for a new constitutional process.”
Unlike previous elections, the vote is mandatory for more than 15 million eligible voters.
Controversial articles included in proposed constitution
The dwindling support for the new law could at least partly be blamed on the prominence given to Chile’s Indigenous population, which makes up almost 13% of the country’s 19 million people. It offers them greater autonomy, particularly on judicial issues.
There are also concerns that it will legalize abortion in a country where half of the population is Roman Catholic.
In addition, the document puts the environment on center stage in a country that is the world’s top copper producer.
“What you can see is a certain conservatism in the Chilean electorate that we haven’t seen for years,” sociologist Marta Lagos told the AFP news agency.
Leftists hold out hope despite grim polling
Those in favor of the new constitution were still holding out hope despite grim poll numbers.
“People will go out to vote en masse and the polls will be wrong once again,” said Juan Carlos Latorre, a legislator in the ruling coalition of leftist President Gabriel Boric, who supports the new text.
At the campaign’s closing rally to approve the new constitution Thursday night, 500,000 people turned out.
The new constitution would also overhaul Chile’s government, replacing the Senate with a less powerful “chamber of regions” and requiring women to hold at least half of positions in public institutions.
Boric has publicly committed to changing or clarifying some of the most controversial points of the document if it is approved.