Chileans called to vote on proposed new constitution


Some 15 million Chileans are called on Sunday to finalize or suspend the process of a new Constitution, which began after the violent popular uprising of 2019 demanding more social justice.

The referendum with compulsory vote invites to replace the current Constitution written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) which, in spite of several successive reforms, is always regarded as a brake with any basic social reform. The neoliberal basis of a model that has enabled decades of stability and economic growth, it has spawned a deeply unequal society.

The proposal intends in particular that the State can guarantee Chilean citizens the right to education, public health, retirement and decent housing. It intends to enshrine the right to abortion, a divisive issue in the country where abortion has only been authorized since 2017 in the event of rape or danger to the mother or child, as well as environmental rights or even the recognition of indigenous peoples.

“Conservative vote”

Despite the show of force of the “yes” supporters, who gathered more than 250,000 people Thursday evening in Santiago at the end of the official campaign – against barely 400 for the “no” supporters – the polls predict, without exception, the victory of the “I reject” the proposal for a new Constitution.

“A lot of young people are going to vote, especially in the capital, and these young people are for change. But that does not mean “that the approval vote will win, because it is a loser” in the south and north of the country, “said Marta Lagos, sociologist and founder of the polling institute. Mori.

These two regions are experiencing serious problems of violence and insecurity. In the South, due to conflicts over land claimed by radical indigenous Mapuche groups and, in the North, due to the influx of migrants, problems of poverty and human trafficking.

According to her, the “no” supporters form a “very heterogeneous” group with a strong “populist” fiber fueled by the “fear” of being dispossessed. On the contrary, the “yes” camp has been able to understand how “the new social rights will be distributed”, she says.

“There is of course always a possibility that all the polls are wrong” and that the vote in the capital “could compensate for that in the north and the south” of the country, but “I think that this probability does not exceed 5%” luck, she says.

The new Constitution carries some of the values ​​of millennials (who came of age in 2000 or later), but “on Sunday we should see a conservative vote”, predicts the sociologist.

New process

The rejection of this proposed Constitution, drawn up for a year by a constituent assembly elected in May 2021 and composed of 154 members, does not mean the freezing of all reforms. “Roadmaps” have already been drawn up.

“There is a consensus that the 1980 Constitution is no longer valid and that we should move on to another” establishing new “social, political and economic rights”, academic Cecilia Osorio told AFP. at the University of Chile.

Emanuel Gonzalez, a 22-year-old journalist, who says he voted for writing a new Constitution in the October 2020 referendum, intends this time to reject the resulting proposal.

“It’s not that I don’t like him at all. I read it and I think there are things that can be salvaged if a new constituent process is recreated,” he said.

If the rejection wins, President Gabriel Boric has announced that he will ask Parliament to launch a new constitutional process starting from “zero”, with the election of a new constituent assembly to draft a new text.

According to him, the 2020 referendum, approved by 79%, definitively buried the Constitution of the Pinochet era.

If yes, the new Constitution will come into force in 10 days.

Supporters of President Boric want to believe in a reversal of the situation. “People will vote en masse and the polls will still be wrong,” convinced Senator Juan Carlos Latorre, president of the Democratic Revolution party, member of the government coalition.

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