Chileans Reject A New Constitution, In Doing So They Choose Unity

Chileans — with astounding resolution — voted to reject a new constitution. The proposed draft would have ousted the current one that was ratified in 1980 under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. In a compulsory plebiscite that witnessed a turnout of 13 million people, the progressive draft was resoundingly struck down by 62% of voters. Though polls predicted that the radical proposal would be rejected, none predicted a 24-point margin — a figure nearly double pre-vote estimates. The overwhelming “no” epitomizes the current climate of Chile – a nation that is primed for change, but one that is unwilling to accept any that would breed uncertainty, instability, or disunity.
In a statement to Voice of America, Roberto Briones, a voter, criticized the now rejected constitution for “[leaning] too far to one side and not [having] the vision of all Chileans.” He continued to express that “[everyone] wants a new constitution, but it needs to have a better structure.”
Similar criticisms lodged by Carlos Salinas, a spokesman for the Citizens’ House for Rejection, expressed that rejection is owed to a failure of the leftists to represent the considerations of all Chileans. In his statement to Voice of America, he expressed contentment towards the defeat of the proposed constitution. Salinas asserts that “we’re consolidating a great majority of Chileans who saw rejection as a path of hope.” He continues that “we want to tell the government of President Gabriel Boric, who during the campaign played his hand in favour of approval, that ‘today you must be the president of all Chileans and together we must move forward.’”
The statements put forth by Briones and Salinas embody a wide consensus amongst Chileans regarding the shortcomings of the new constitution. Primarily, it was deemed to be too radical to a constituency that largely identifies as centrist. With 388 articles, if approved Chile would have established autonomous indigenous territories complete with a parallel justice system, replaced the senate with a weaker regional chamber, mandated gender parity in government institutions, prioritized the environment, and granted over 100 rights.
Implementing such changes would have necessitated an immense transformation of Chilean society. An overhaul of that breadth spawned uncertainty within many that the Chile that this constitution sought to create would be far too revisionist for most. Moreover, predictions that were made to reduce uncertainty produced unfavourable projections. Analysts predicted weakened property laws, increased government spending by up to 50%, a deteriorating economy, and legal insecurity due to the vagueness of the draft.
Fundamentally, Chileans remain united in their acknowledgment that change is necessary — in 2020 nearly 80% voted to draft a new constitution. But this idyllic proposal failed to convince voters that this was the best answer to their demands for change. Encouragingly, despite this setback, it is clear that constitutional change is still high on the national agenda. In laudatory remarks, President Gabriel Boric has already signalled his dedication to the creation of a new constitution that will do a greater job of creating “a sense of trust” and “[uniting Chile] as a country.”