Chileans Roundly Reject Proposed New Constitution

Proposal would have enshrined more rights than any constitution in the world
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2022 5:38 PM CDT
Chileans Roundly Reject Proposed New Constitution
Opponents of the new Constitution celebrate in the streets the results of a plebiscite on whether the new Constitution will replace the current Magna Carta imposed by a military dictatorship 41 years ago, in Santiago, Chile, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022.   (AP Photo/Matias Basualdo)

Chilean voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed new constitution on Sunday, dealing a major political blow to President Gabriel Boric, according to the New York Times, and bringing an "abrupt ending to a long and sometimes painful process that had promised a political revolution … but instead leaves Chile deeply divided." The sweeping proposal included 388 articles that would have codified over 100 rights—more than any other constitution in the world—including guarantees around housing, healthcare, education, food, water, internet access, retirement benefits, and free legal services. It also promised far-reaching autonomy to Chile’s indigenous groups and required women to hold at least 50% of jobs in government institutions.

It was all a bit much for most Chileans, 62% of whom voted against it. Nevertheless, an even greater majority still wants a new constitution, as expressed in a 2020 referendum when nearly 80% voted to scrap the current one, which was enacted in 1980 under dictator Augusto Pinochet. The 2020 referendum followed a wave of protests and political violence in 2019 under then-President Javiera Morales. Thereafter, 154 individuals were elected to serve in a constitutional convention. Left-wing candidates captured the majority of those seats, many of them political outsiders with far-reaching progressive visions and little interest in compromise. The resulting proposal carried an enormous price tag and essentially would have reengineered Chilean society.

As Sunday’s vote approached, polls suggested the proposal would be rejected, but everyone was surprised by the margin. Voters in every region said "no," per CNN, including in the progressive capital, Santiago. President Boric—who has faced grim approval ratings since taking office earlier this year—addressed the nation after the vote, saying, "Chileans’ decision demands our institutions and political leaders to work harder, with more dialogue, respect, and care, until we reach a proposal that reflects us all." Many Chileans expressed relief, per the BBC, with one voter telling reporters that "Chile needs change, but it does not need communism, and that is what this process was attempting." (Read more Chile stories.)

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