New Chilean Constitution Rejected by the People

Written by Ciara Perez – September 12, 2022

On September 4, 2022, 13 million Chilean’s participated in a mandatory vote of the newly drafted constitution, which would drastically change the institutional structure of society and the rights of the people. The results were unexpected. Almost 62% of people voted against the proposed draft, compared to the 80% of people who had supported the idea of a constitutional referendum when it was proposed in October 2020. At the time, many people associated the idea of a new constitution with a feeling of hope for the future, but as the vote drew closer, the feeling of hope was replaced by uncertainty for many.

The process to change the Chilean constitution began in 2019 after student-led protests over the costs of public transportation “expanded into broader demands for greater equality and more social protections” (Politi, 2022). Chile’s current constitution was implemented in 1980 when the country was under the rule of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, and it lacks the foundation to provide greater rights to the people. The proposed constitution had 388 articles and was 178 pages long, and included “issues like gender equality, environmental protections and Indigenous rights throughout the document” (Politi, 2022). It would have made Chile “the guarantor of more than 100 rights, more than any other national constitution in the world”. One of the main reasons cited for the rejection of the proposed draft is that “it would have declared Chile a “plurinational” state, recognizing the rights of Chile’s indigenous populations” (Buschschlüter, 2022). The fact that the vote was mandatory means that many who had doubts about the draft chose to reject it in hopes that a new version would be more agreeable.

However, this is not the end of constitutional reform within Chile. President Gabriel Boris, a leftist who took office in March 2022, was a champion of the proposed draft. On Tuesday, after hearing the voice of the people, he began making “changes to his cabinet to bring in more moderate and politically experienced politicians”. The proposal had been “drafted by a constituent assembly largely made up of leftist activists” and people felt that it “would have undermined the balance of power, weakened the independence of the judiciary and scaled back equality for all citizens under the law” (Forero, 2022). In his new cabinet comprised of more centrists, the hope is that there will be better communication between the executive and legislative branches to reach a proposal that will unite the people of Chile.

One thing is for sure, a change to the constitution is desired by both the people and the government, so both will work until a drafted proposal can be agreed upon.

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