Chileans vote to approve a new constitution, the first since 1980 that was drafted under military leader Augusto Pinochet.
Millions of Chileans are voting in a referendum to approve or reject a new constitution drafted earlier this year, in what could be a defining moment for the country of 19 million people.
The proposed constitution – which took a year to prepare – includes more rights for women, indigenous people, and working-class citizens.
While some circles have hailed it as progressive and inclusive, the draft constitution is more likely to be voted on, according to recent opinion polls.
The referendum, which is mandatory for all eligible, is also said to mark a moment of success or a respite for Chile’s recently elected left-wing president Gabriel Borek, whose popularity has plummeted since taking office in March.
Voting begins at 8 AM local time (12:00 GMT) and ends at 6 PM (22:00 GMT), unless there are voters in line. Results are expected within a few hours after voting is complete.
Here is what you need to know:
Why Chile vote on a new constitution?
- After student-led protests erupted in October 2019 over higher transport prices, the months-long demonstrations have expanded to include broader demands for social protection and equality in the South American country. Dozens were killed and thousands injured in the government crackdown that followed.
- One of the main demands of the protests was to replace the constitution, which many consider to be outdated and illegal because it was passed under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In October 2020, Chileans voted overwhelmingly in a referendum on a new charter with nearly 80 percent in favour.
- An elected body of 154 people began drafting the new charter which was then sent for approval to President Borek in July, giving citizens two months to debate the proposal before voting day on Sunday.
What is the vote for Chile?
- The draft constitution includes 388 articles that change the political system, the state’s social responsibilities, and minority rights.
- Under the proposed charter, a leader can be elected once in a row while the president cannot currently be re-elected.
- The constitution, if approved, would guarantee decent housing rights, form a national health care system, and promote employment benefits. State bodies and public corporations, among other entities, must be committed to gender equality.
- The proposal devoted an entire chapter to environmental rights stating that “nature has rights” and that animals are “subject to special protection”. The current constitution contains only one article related to environmental protection. Combating climate change will be the “duty of the state” such as protecting biodiversity, native species and natural spaces.
- The rights of indigenous groups to their “lands, territories and resources” as well as reserved seats in representative bodies are guaranteed. The draft text also states that indigenous peoples should be consulted on matters that affect their rights. According to the proposed charter, indigenous groups would be allowed a parallel judicial system to carry out their affairs. However, Chile’s Supreme Court will still have the final say on all matters.
What was the reaction?
- Michelle Bachelet, the former Chilean president and former commissioner for human rights at the United Nations, called the draft constitution a new “social contract”, and supported the reforms.
- Right-wing figures such as 2021 presidential candidate Jose Antonio Caste have been campaigning against the proposed charter for months, while others say it places too much “blind faith” in the mandate to solve the country’s problems and is unlikely to bring stability to peace.
- Opinion polls show that the new constitution will be rejected by voters by up to 10%.
what happened after that?
If voters approve the proposal, the ruling coalition led by Borek has signed an agreement to reform and “clarify” some parts of the constitution. There are also 57 transition articles that will guide the transition from the current constitution.
If the text is rejected, the 36-year-old Borek said a new constitutional process must be initiated to comply with the 2020 referendum.