by Maurizio Sacchi
Chileans once again rejected a newly proposed Constitution, this time drafted by conservatives. On December 17, 56 per cent of voters rejected the draft, while 44 per cent supported it. This is the second consecutive rejection after voters rejected a progressive draft last year. The latest rejected constitution, drafted with a contrasting perspective, sought to change laws on issues such as access to abortion, the right to strike, and the rights of indigenous peoples.
This marks the conclusion of a major effort to replace Chile’s existing Constitution, written in 1980 during the Pinochet dictatorship. The journey began in 2019, following widespread anti-government protests and the severe repression that followed. After weeks of turmoil, then-conservative President Sebastián Piñera conceded to begin the process of rewriting Chile’s Constitution. The initial proposal, drafted by a 155-member Constituent Assembly composed largely of left-leaning members, proposed changes to Chile’s Senate and the formal recognition of the Country’s indigenous communities. But that draft was rejected by 62 per cent of voters last September.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who had endorsed the first draft but remained neutral on the second, declared before the vote that it would mark the last effort at constitutional reform. He stated, “with this… the constitutional process is finished. There are other urgent matters.” The defeated proposal gave the private sector significant influence over crucial areas such as education, health care, and pensions-issues that were central to the uprising four years ago. Feminist groups said the constitution prevented gender equality in all areas. Carolina Leito, the En Contra campaign spokesperson, remarked, “women understood what was at stake.” Environmentalists agreed that the text prepared the state for the challenges of climate change.
Former President Michelle Bachelet spoke out strongly against the rejected proposal on December 17, stating, “the path that began in the streets in 2019 is now closed. I believe there is neither the spirit nor the will to start a new process [of constitutional reform], and secondly, there are much more pressing issues to address.” Thus, the left averted a second setback after the rejection of the progressive constitutional reform. However, President Boric’s current popularity rating of less than 40 per cent does not provide him with the necessary support to advance his political agenda, which includes an ambitious tax reform.
“The end of a chapter is approaching,” remarked Jose Antonio Kast, the leader of the far-right Republican Party, who has sought to avoid personal repercussions from the election results. His attempt to frame the election as a plebiscite against the Government to solidify his candidacy for the presidency in 2025 proved unsuccessful. Analysts agree on the factors that contributed to the outcome. The electoral expert Pepe Auth commented: “The public is so tired, so far removed from the fervour for change that prevailed between 2019 and 2021, that any presidential candidate who advocates a new electoral process will, in all honesty, be rejected.”
On the cover photo, the President of Chile, Gabriel Boric ©Celso Pupo/Shutterstock.com