With almost all the ballots counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal and 38% voted for it, according to Chile’s electoral service.
The draft constitution, which had the support of leftist President Gabriel Boric, included 388 articles that would have dramatically expanded social rights, increased environmental regulation and given the government broader responsibility for social welfare programs. It would also have ensured full gender parity and added designated seats for Indigenous representatives.
The document was rejected in all provinces of Chile, including the more progressive capital of Santiago and its metropolitan area, where voters overwhelmingly backed Boric last December in the presidential election.
Boric responded to the defeat in a live televised address to the nation after polls closed on Sunday.
“Today the Chilean people spoke, and they spoke loud and clear,” Boric said. “They gave us two messages. The first is that they love and appreciate their democracy… The second is that the people of Chile were not happy with the proposed constitution and therefore decided to vote clearly against them.”
Footage from Santiago on Sunday shows a somber mood among supporters of the constitution, as others celebrated the news that it had been voted down.
The constitution currently in place was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990. Proponents of the new constitution wanted a break with Chile’s authoritarian past and a document reflecting the interests of the communities which, according to them, had been ignored.
Why change the constitution?
The proposed change was initiated in 2020 when then-president Sebastien Piñera called for a referendum on the creation of a new constitution amid social unrest and popular discontent sparked by an increase in metro fares. in October 2019.
The Constitutional Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender parity and the first in the country’s history to include seats reserved for indigenous representatives.
Supporters hoped his progressive stance would be reflected in a new, updated constitution.
And the constitutional process itself has been internationally hailed for giving the country an institutional way out of a social crisis and for responding to the demands of modern Chileans for greater equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.
According to Robert Funk, a professor at the University of Chile, the removal of vestiges of the past imposed by Pinochet was a key driver for the creation of a new constitution.
“The existing constitution in Chile was originally drafted in 1980 under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Since then, it has been modified many times, but it has always been questioned because it was imposed during a dictatorship,” Funk said.
Path to rejection
But although most Chilean voters supported the idea of a constitutional change in October 2020, divisions have emerged over the proposed draft.
Shortly after the draft was released, various polls began to show a growing trend of charter rejection, with the government publicly acknowledging this scenario.
The defeated constitution would have been one of the most progressive in the world, giving the state a leading role in providing social rights.
The project placed a strong emphasis on indigenous self-determination and environmental protection, and would have dismantled the highly privatized system of water rights. It demands gender equality in all public institutions and enterprises and enshrines respect for sexual diversity. It also provided for a new national health system.
But the project has become bitterly divisive.
The right argued that the bill would move the country too far left, or that it was too ambitious and difficult to turn into effective laws. As the vote approached, even some of his left-wing supporters wanted adjustments, with their slogan “approve the reform”.
The opposition has pledged to begin a new process of rewriting the constitution, promising voters that the next one will better reflect their interests.
In his Sunday speech, Boric signaled that this was not the end of reform efforts.
“This decision of Chilean men and women forces our institutions and our political actors to work harder, with more dialogue, with more respect and attention, until we arrive at a proposal that interprets all of us. , which is trustworthy, which unites us as a country,” said Boric.
CNN’s Michelle Velez, Daniela Mohor W. and Jorge Engels contributed to this report.