Chileans head to polls to decide draft constitution with big changes – National

Chileans voted on Sunday to approve or reject a new progressive constitution that would replace its current pro-market text dating from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The new text is the result of an agreement reached to quell violent protests against inequality in 2019 and focuses on social rights, the environment, gender equality and indigenous rights.

While nearly 80% of Chileans voted to draft a new constitution at the end of 2020, polls show public support for the new text has plummeted amid fear of some proposals and controversies surrounding voters elected to draft it.

The number of voters planning to vote “no” on the new text first exceeded the “yes” vote in April and maintained a variable lead. The last polls before a two-week blackout showed the “no” in the lead with 47% against 38% for the “yes” and 17% undecided.

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But unlike previous elections, this vote is compulsory, adding another layer of uncertainty, experts say.

“That’s probably the biggest uncertainty, a lot of people like to extrapolate poll results,” said Rossana Castiglioni, a professor of political science at Diego Portales University, noting that only 43% of the population turned out for elect voters to write the new text. .

“But the truth is that we know relatively little about that 50%, that half of the population that abstains from electoral processes.”

More than 15 million Chileans and residents have the right to vote in more than 3,000 voting centers.

Polling stations will close at 6 p.m. but will remain open to voters queuing. The Chilean electoral agency expects to have results in a few hours.

President Gabriel Boric cast his vote early Sunday in the southern city of Punta Arenas and pledged to preserve unity regardless of the outcome.

“In the difficult times we have had as a country, we have chosen to resolve our differences and move forward with more democracy,” Boric told reporters after the vote.

He added that regardless of the outcome, the government will work with all sectors to “advance justice, equality, growth and development for all”.

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Some polls outside the country, notably in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea and China, have already closed and show a favorable lead for the new text. Out-of-country votes are historically more progressive than the rest of the electorate.

The ruling coalition has already agreed to change the text if approved and 57 transitional standards will help guide the transition from one constitution to another.

If the text is rejected, Boric said the process should restart to fulfill the mandate given by the 2020 vote to draft a new constitution. Other political figures have said the current constitution should be amended given recent legislative changes aimed at reducing the majorities needed to do so.


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