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Chile seeks way forward after rejection of new constitution

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SANTIAGO, Chile — The vast majority of Chileans rejected a new progressive constitution to replace the dictatorship-era charter, which dealt a blow to youthful President Gabriel Boric, who must now make deals to create another document or replace the current one. change document.

While the proposed charter was expected to be defeated in Sunday’s plebiscite, the rejection camp’s nearly 24-point victory was a shocking defeat for a document three years in the making and billed as a democratic attempt to overturn the imposed constitution. to replace. by General Augusto Pinochet 41 years ago.

With 99.9% of the vote counted, the rejection camp had 61.9% support compared to 38.1% in favor amid high turnout with long lines at polling stations. Voting was mandatory.

Boric, who had lobbied hard for the new document, said the results made it clear that the Chilean people “were not satisfied with the constitutional proposal the convention presented to Chile”.

The president said there will now likely be “adjustments to our government team” as he seeks a way forward. Despite the loss, the vast majority believe the current constitution should be amended, but they felt the proposed constitution was not a suitable replacement, analysts say.

Boric made it clear that the process to change it would not end with Sunday’s vote. He said it was necessary for leaders to work “with more determination, more dialogue, more respect” to come to a newly proposed charter “that unites us as a country”.

In Santiago, Chile’s capital, horns blared in honor of the celebration as groups of people gathered at numerous intersections to celebrate the results.

“We’re happy because really, we all want a new constitution, but one that is implemented well and it doesn’t meet the expectations of the majority,” said Lorena Cornejo, 34, waving a Chilean flag. “Now we have to work on a new one that unites us, this one did not represent us and that was clearly in the mood.”

Even some who were in favor of the proposed document put a positive spin on the defeat.

“While it’s true that I wanted it approved, this is another chance to reform everything that people didn’t agree with,” said Alain Olivares, 36. “We’ll just have to wait longer to change the constitution. “

Carlos Salinas, a spokesman for the Citizens’ House for Rejection, said the majority of Chileans viewed rejection as “a path of hope”.

Despite the expectation of defeat for the proposed charter, no analyst or pollster had predicted such a large margin for the rejection camp, demonstrating how Chileans were not ready to back a charter that would be one of the most progressive in the world. been and would have fundamentally changed the South American country.

The constitution was the first in the world to be written by a convention split equally between male and female delegates, but critics said it was too long, unclear and went too far in some of its measures, including characterizing Chile as a plurinational state, establishing autonomous indigenous territories and prioritizing the environment and gender equality.

“The constitution that has now been written leans too far to one side and does not have the vision of all Chileans,” Roberto Briones, 41, said after his vote in Chile’s capital Santiago. “We all want a new constitution, but it needs to be better structured.”

But others had fervently hoped it would pass.

Italo Hernández, 50, said he supported the changes as he left the polling station at the National Stadium in Chile’s capital Santiago. “We must leave behind Pinochet’s constitution, which only favored people with money.”

Hernández said it was “very symbolic and very emotional” to vote in a stadium that had been used as a detention and torture site during the military dictatorship.

Boric, 36, is Chile’s youngest-ever president and a former leader of student protests. He had tied his fortunes so closely to the new document that analysts said some voters likely saw the plebiscite as a referendum on his government at a time when his approval numbers have plummeted since he took office in March.

What happens next is a big question mark. Chilean political leaders from all walks of life agree that the constitution dating back to the 1973-1990 dictatorship must change. The process that will be chosen to draft a new proposal has yet to be determined and is likely to be the subject of hard-fought negotiations between the country’s political leaders.

Boric has called on the heads of all political parties for a meeting tomorrow to chart the way forward.

The vote marked the culmination of a process that began when the country, once seen as a paragon of stability in the region, exploded in student-led street protests in 2019. broader demands for greater equality and greater social protection.

The following year, just under 80% of Chileans voted to change the country’s constitution. They then elected delegates to a constitutional convention in 2021.

The 388-article proposed charter, in addition to addressing social issues and the environment, also introduced rights to free education, health care and housing. It would have created autonomous indigenous territories and recognized a parallel justice system in those areas, although legislators would decide how far that would go.

In contrast, the current constitution is a market-friendly document that favors the private sector over the state in education, pensions and health care. Nor does it refer to the country’s indigenous population, who make up nearly 13% of the population.



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