Chile buries Pinochet’s Constitution in a plebiscite born in the street

Chile has decided in a historic plebiscite, which emerged in response to the social protests of a year ago, to draft a new Constitution and bury your current Basic Law, inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and seen as the germ of the inequalities that caused the revolts. Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of “Approve” (more than 78% of the votes), the option that opens a constituent process, and chose that it be absolutely citizen, entrusting the drafting of the new Magna Carta to a constitutional convention (79 % of votes) that will be composed of 155 people elected by popular vote just for that purpose.

The “Rejection” option, which advocated making reforms based on new laws but without changing the constitutional framework that, in his opinion, allowed Chile’s growth in the last 30 years, obtained almost 22% of the votes, while that the option for the new Basic Law to be drafted by a mixed convention made up equally of citizens and parliamentarians achieved an overwhelming majority.

More than 14.7 million Chileans were called to go to the polls in a vote that was held in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic and filled with sanitary restrictions and protocols to prevent possible outbreaks. Despite this, turnout exceeded 50%, the best percentage since voting was no longer mandatory in 2012.

No leaders

The result puts citizens at the center of a unique process that began with the taking of the streets as of October 18, 2019 with massive demonstrations, self-organized, without leaders and outside the political parties, to demand a fairer socioeconomic model.

The citizen rebellion motivated the political class to try to channel discontent through a plebiscite, in which today the Chileans decided that they will change the Constitution and that they will be the ones who will form, jointly, the convention that will develop the new legislative framework and of coexistence of the country.

This constituent election will be held on April 11, 2021 and half of its members will be women and the other half men. Furthermore, it remains to be debated whether there will be reserved seats for indigenous peoples at the convention.

«Today citizenship and democracy have triumphed. Today unity has prevailed over division and peace over violence. And this is a triumph for all Chileans who love democracy, unity and peace. And without a doubt, this triumph of democracy should fill us with joy and hope, “said the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, about the result of the plebiscite.

The president did not publicly pronounce on the direction of his vote and he limited himself to encouraging participation, while asking his cabinet not to participate in public events in support of any of the options. The left-wing opposition was in favor of change at all times, while the four right-wing parties that make up the government coalition were divided, between those who defended constitutional change at all costs and those who supported the development of a new Basic Text.

The former foreign minister of Chile and president of the opposition Party for Democracy (PPD), Heraldo Muñoz, said that the result harbors “great hope” and that it is “a mandate from citizens to politics, and an opportunity to regain lost trust.” .

Senator Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, from the right-wing Independent Democratic Union (UDI), a party that defended the “Rejection”, celebrated that the process was developing in peace and said that they will work so that the constitutional change does not start from scratch.

the end of an era

Pinochet’s Constitution has been amended many times during the last 30 years democracy, being stripped of its authoritarian and undemocratic enclaves, but it continued to be the support of the Chilean neoliberal model and prevented major structural reforms as demanded by citizens in health, education and pensions, among others.

The new Magna Carta will be born in democracy and will definitively end one of the last strongholds of the Pinochet era, while the change in the socioeconomic model will depend on the consensus reached by the constituents. The provisions of the new text must be approved by two thirds of the constituents, which will lead to large agreements and will force the most radical positions to be put aside.

The new text is legitimized in origin by the election of this Sunday and will be submitted to a referendum again, with a mandatory vote, once it has been written, a process that will take almost two years from now on.

“This plebiscite is not the end, it is the beginning of a path that we must travel together to agree on a new Constitution for Chile. So far the Constitution has divided us. Starting today, we must all collaborate so that the new Constitution is the great framework of unity, stability and future, “said Piñera.

The high difference between the results of the two options represents ample support for the time that remains until the new Basic Law is drafted, in which it remains to be seen what pressure the street will exert, in a context of pandemic and with a 2021 ahead in which there will be up to three electoral processes between regional and national elections.


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