Chile Rejects New Constitution in Historic National Referendum

Chileans decisively turned down a proposed conservative constitution, continuing the struggle to replace the Pinochet-era text amidst political discontent and division.

Team Patriot celebrates the results of the constitutional plebiscite

12/17/2023.- Members of the so-called Team Patriot celebrate the results of the constitutional plebiscite, in Santiago (Chile). EFE/Elvis Gonzalez

The Latin American Post Staff

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Leer en español: Chile rechaza nueva Constitución en histórico referéndum nacional

Landmark Rejection of Conservative Constitution in Chile

In a landmark referendum, Chilean citizens voiced a resounding rejection of a newly proposed conservative constitution, a significant step in the nation's ongoing quest to overhaul a legal framework dating back to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. With over a quarter of the votes counted, the results showed a clear preference against the new text, with 54.61% voting against it and 45.39% in favor.

This rejection marks the second time in recent years that Chileans have turned down an attempt to replace the current constitution. This process emerged from intense, often violent protests against inequality in 2019. These demonstrations set off a wave of political engagement to address deep-seated societal issues.

Challenges in the Journey to a New Constitution

However, the journey to a new constitution has been marred by political infighting and public mistrust. The initial draft, penned by a predominantly left-wing assembly, focused on social justice, indigenous rights, environmental concerns, and gender equality. Despite its progressive intentions, voters overwhelmingly dismissed the draft in September of the previous year.

In a political pendulum swing, the electorate leaned towards conservative representation for drafting the second constitution. This new text, perceived as more traditional and market-friendly, aimed to replace the 1980 constitution. It emphasized private property rights and imposed stringent regulations on immigration and abortion, reflecting a shift in the assembly's ideological balance.

Despite initial polls indicating a likely failure of the new constitution, the gap had narrowed in the weeks leading up to the referendum. The rejection of this conservative draft is seen by many as a victory for leftist President Gabriel Boric, who has been a vocal advocate for constitutional reform.

President Boric's Commitment Amidst Turmoil

President Boric, addressing the nation, reaffirmed his commitment to working for the people, regardless of the referendum's outcome. His statement reflected an understanding of the need to focus on the populace's priorities amidst this constitutional turmoil.

The referendum's results also shed light on the deep political polarization plaguing Chile, a factor that many voters cited as a barrier to reaching a consensus on a new constitution. This division underscores the nation's challenges in its efforts to move beyond the shadow of the Pinochet era and establish a legal foundation that reflects its people's contemporary values and aspirations.

The rejection of the conservative constitution proposal does not mark the end of Chile's constitutional journey but rather a turning point. It highlights the complexities of achieving consensus in a politically diverse society and the need for a more inclusive and unifying approach to constitutional reform.

Challenges and Lessons in Chile's Constitutional Journey

As Chile grapples with its political identity and the legacy of its past, the search for a new constitutional text remains a pivotal issue. The repeated rejections indicate a populace actively engaged in shaping the nation's future yet still determining the direction it should take. The challenge ahead for Chile's leaders and citizens alike is to bridge the ideological divides and craft a constitution that genuinely embodies its people's diverse voices and needs.

Also read: Chile's Crucial Vote on a New, More Conservative Constitution

In this ongoing quest for a new legal framework, Chile is a testament to the challenges of democratic transition and the importance of inclusive, participatory governance. The nation's experience is a valuable lesson for countries grappling with similar constitutional reform issues and societal change worldwide. The future of Chile's constitutional journey remains open, a narrative still being written by its people and their enduring pursuit of a more equitable and representative society.

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