Plebiscite in Chile: the country voted in favor of changing the Pinochet Constitution – Latin America – International

Chileans decided this Sunday, by an overwhelming majority of 77.9 percent, to replace their current Constitution, drawn up during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), when more than 60% of the votes have been counted in the historic plebiscite that emerged from the October 2019 protests.

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About the body that should write the new text, the other question that was raised in the historic vote, is imposed with 79.06% the option of the constitutional convention, which will be integrated only by elected citizens for that purpose and will be equal, according to the latest data offered, which are presumed irreversible, reported by the Electoral Service of Chile (Servel).

The option to reject the constitutional change received 22.03% of the votes, while the option for the new Magna Carta to be drawn up by a mixed convention made up of parliamentarians and elected citizens obtained 20.94% of the votes.

The 155 people who will make up the citizen convention that will draft the new Constitution will be elected by popular vote on April 11 of the year that is coming and from then on they will have a margin of nine months, extendable only once for three more months, to prepare the text of the new Magna Carta.

The resulting text will be submitted to a new referendum, already in 2022, which will be a mandatory vote and in which citizens will decide whether to approve or reject it.

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The consultation, which was initially scheduled for April of this year, was postponed until today due to the pandemic and was carried out under strict sanitary measures and physical distance.

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.

Piñera did not publicly pronounce on the direction of his vote and limited himself to encouraging participation, while asking his cabinet not to participate in public events in support of any of the options. Since the beginning of the afternoon, the central Plaza Italia in Santiago de Chile was filled with thousands of people to wait for the result of the vote count and celebrate from very early on the trend that gave victory to the constitutional change, celebrations that continue at this time and they reproduce in other cities of the country.

Very high electoral participation

In the central Plaza Italia in Santiago, the epicenter of the protests last year, Sebastián Llanta, a 32-year-old engineer, said that “what is happening today was something impossible to imagine.” “It is being achieved because of everything that happened just over a year ago. It will not be magical overnight, but what happens now has to do with the contribution of all of us, “he added, before going to dance to the rhythm of” They want money “(1986), a protest song of Los Prisioneros that became popular during the dictatorship (1973-1990) and that sounded on a loudspeaker.

More than 14.7 million Chileans were called to vote. With masks and the hope of a change, long lines were observed in the voting centers, where the process passed without incident and with the sanitary guards to avoid coronavirus infections.

The rate of Participation was a key piece of information in an electoral appointment in the midst of a pandemic, in a country where since 2012 voting has been voluntary. The immediate reference was the presidential one in 2017, when President Sebastián Piñera was elected, and 49.2% voted.

According to previous polls, the majority of Chileans were in favor of approving the plebiscite for a new constitution.


Martin Bernetti. AFP

“Today Chileans have freely expressed their will through the ballot box, choosing the option of a constituent convention, for the first time with full equality between men and women, to agree on a new Constitution for Chile, “said the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera, in a public intervention from the headquarters of the Government, giving victory to the option of changing the Magna Carta when only 20% of the votes had been counted.

The plebiscite was the result of a political agreement between the ruling party and almost all the opposition forces to decompress the serious wave of protests unleashed last year against inequality and in favor of better basic services, which among massive peaceful demonstrations also produced episodes of extreme violence and police repression, and caused at least 30 deaths and thousands of injuries.

“There are many people to vote everywhere. I have never seen so many people, and so many youth,” said José Gallardo, a 73-year-old taxi driver who toured the city in the morning.

The plebiscite has been marked by the possibility of changes that this unprecedented electoral process opens, decided after a broad political agreement reached in November last year, almost a month after the start, on October 18, 2019, of social protests and confrontations. violent with the Police after the rise in the rate of the Santiago Metro.

The election takes place just one year after the largest march in democracy took place on October 25, 2019. More than 1.2 million people gathered around Plaza Italia in Santiago, a demonstration of the depth and breadth of social discontent accumulated in decades in a country considered a model of economic growth and stability in Latin America.

(In other news: The United States enters the elections with extreme polarization)

“One year after the social explosion is the first real opportunity we have to make the necessary changes to improve health, education; to have a more egalitarian society,” said Pilar Matus, a 47-year-old teacher who participated in that great march . President Piñera, who has remained neutral to date and did not reveal whether he was going to vote for or against, voted early and asked his compatriots to go to the polls “because all voices matter.”

He also called to “reject violence and embrace the path of unity.” “We have waited much more than a year (for this), it is a historic event in our country,” Elías Pérez, a 39-year-old psychologist, who voted in the National Stadium of Santiago, an emblematic place in history, told AFP. Chilean converted for this day into the largest voting center in the country.

The mother of injustice

For a large sector of the population, the Constitution of 1980 is the mother of inequalities in Chile. Although the Magna Carta does not establish the privatization of basic sectors, such as health or education, it encourages the participation of the private sector and reduces the size of the State.

(Keep reading: A less fatalistic look at the future of Latin America)

But for critics of the process, a change to the Constitution could undermine the health of the economy and social development. “A primary purpose of this constituent process is to leave behind the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship (…) created under the use of force,” Marcelo Mella, a political scientist at the University of Santiago, told AFP.

The second objective, added Mella, is “to be able to resolve through political and peaceful means the problems that have become structural,” such as inequality and exclusion. In addition to choosing between “Approve” and “Rejection”, voters also defined the body that will draft the eventual new Constitution: una “Mixed Convention”, made up of 172 members, distributed equally between elected citizens and sitting parliamentarians, or a “Constitutional Convention” of 155 members, in which all its members must be popularly elected.



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