Chile referendum: 56% reject second proposed constitution

After two plebiscites in two years, President Boric has acknowledged that his government will not attempt to rewrite the country's charter a third time

Chilean citizens voted to reject a new draft constitution in a referendum held Sunday. It was the second constitutional rewrite to be rejected by the population, and the government and opposition have acknowledged that they will not attempt to draft a third text.

With the vote count nearly complete late on Sunday, 56% had voted against the proposed constitution, according to the Electoral Service (Servel).

Chileans were voting on a new draft, written mainly by right-wing parties, to replace the current charter, which was developed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Chilean progressives argued that the 182-page draft text represented a “setback” for human rights, mainly because it threatened the nation’s already limited abortion provisions, while the right defined it as the “Constitution of security.”

The text would also have enshrined the right to freedom of choice in the health sector, which

could have given constitutional status to Chile’s private health services, something heavily criticized by the government because of the associated costs. It also proposed cutting the number of deputies from 155 to 138 and establishing a 5% vote threshold for political parties to enter Congress.

President Gabriel Boric stated on Sunday that the two similar processes in two years, both unsuccessful, “polarized the country,” and as such, “politics has fallen short for Chile.” He invited Chileans to “leave the trenches and the imposition of partial views” in order to address the main problems affecting the country.

José Antonio Kast, leader of the far-right Republican Party, also accepted the result, saying: “A large majority of Chileans have rejected the proposal that we promoted from the Constitutional Council, and we recognize that defeat. My hope is that today a sad chapter of our history closes,” he added.

Boric, who promoted a more progressive draft constitution that was rejected by a previous referendum in 2022, said as he cast his ballot that he valued the democratic nature of the vote regardless of its outcome.

“Our government will keep working on the people’s priorities, regardless of what happens today,” he said at his polling station in Santiago.

More than 15 million people were eligible to vote in 3,000 polling centers in Chile, with another 120,000 citizens casting ballots abroad.

Kast, whose party was responsible for most of the drafting of the text, said after voting that he hoped “many people cast their vote, and that peace, sanity, freedom, and common sense prevail.”

Chile is governed by the 1980 Constitution. The charter was reformed significantly in 2005, but was at the heart of citizens’ demands in the social uprising that began in October 2019.

That led to a first attempt to rewrite the document, mostly drafted by left-wing and independent convention delegates, which 61% of Chileans voted against in September 2022.

That vote was a major setback for Boric, one of the failed reform’s main backers. The left-wing president, in office since March 2022, did not say which way he would vote on the new Constitution draft, earning criticism from the opposition.

Government spokesperson Camila Vallejo denied that the vote constituted an evaluation of the government.



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