Chileans rejected on Sunday, for the second time in just over a year, a draft new Constitution, which means that the Basic Law dating from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet will remain in force.
The “against” vote won 55.75% of the votes, while the “for” obtained 44.25%, according to the official results published by the electoral service (Servel) after 99% of the ballots were counted.
More than fifteen million voters were asked to vote for or against this new fundamental law, with a very conservative tone.
The text submitted to the vote was written by those who defend the legacy of General Pinochet, after the rejection in September 2022 of a first progressive proposal supported by the young left-wing president Gabriel Boric.
The latter, the youngest leader in the history of Chile, aged 37, recently assured that this new consultation would be the last attempt to reform the Constitution.
The revision of the Constitution of the Pinochet era (1973-1990), considered as a brake on any fundamental social reform, was set in motion to satisfy the social movement of 2019 against inequalities which had left around thirty dead. A year later, Chileans approved 80% of the drafting of a new Constitution.
After the rejection of the first proposal, Mr. Boric suffered a new setback in May when the ultra-conservative right came first in the ballot to elect the members who would form the Constitutional Council responsible for drafting the new fundamental law.
“Today we are experiencing a new civic day which, beyond any result, strengthens our democracy,” declared President Boric after voting in his hometown of Punta Arenas (3,000 km south of Santiago).
“Chile,” the Head of State welcomed, “has demonstrated a strength that we should not take for granted, namely that the problems […] are channeled institutionally and resolved peacefully. »
The Republican Party has seduced voters with its uncompromising discourse against insecurity, which it mainly associates with Venezuelan immigration.
The opposition presents Sunday’s vote as a consultation on President Boric, who rode a wave of discontent to be elected at the end of 2021, at age 35, but whose popularity rating is now declining.
The proposed new Constitution reinforces the conservative character of the current text which dates from 1980, particularly on issues such as abortion and public security.
Abortion, a “dangerous” subject
The addition to the Constitution of new, more restrictive provisions on abortion is a controversial subject, “dangerous even”, estimates Catalina Lufin, 22 years old, president of the Federation of Students of the University of Chile, because all this “we set back in terms of fundamental rights.
The practice of abortion was completely prohibited in Chile until 2017, when a law authorized it, but only in cases of risk to the life of the mother, after rape or if a fetus is declared non-viable.
The current Constitution “protects the life of those who are to be born”, but the new text went beyond this, making the embryo a person, thus making access to an abortion even more difficult.
The new text, on the other hand, recognized indigenous peoples for the first time, a long-standing aspiration of indigenous peoples, mainly Mapuche, who represent around 12% of the population, but it did not respond to their demand for more autonomy.
Andrès Calfuqueo, a political science student of Mapuche origin, assures that the new text does not “represent” him. It “was born from a process that promised to unite Chileans, but ended up dividing them.”
Enthusiasm for a new Constitution has been dampened by the pandemic, inflation and a growing sense of insecurity and weariness.
“There is an atmosphere of disenchantment, of little interest, of little motivation and of fatigue with regard to the constitutional question,” underlines Claudia Heiss, political scientist at the University of Chile. “People want more basic things: they want security, public order, more police officers on the streets…” she emphasizes.