Chile voters reject new conservative constitution

Chileans have voted not to adopt a new constitution to replace the current one written during the military regime of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

The draft was put forward by a council dominated by right-wing delegates, after voters rejected a more left-wing proposal last year.

It would have affected laws in areas including abortion access, the ability to strike and indigenous rights.

In a referendum on Sunday, the draft was reject by 56% of voters to 44%.

Efforts to replace Chile’s existing constitution, adopted in 1980 under the Pinochet dictatorship, began in 2019 following anti-government demonstrations.

The protesters, many of them left-wing students, called for measures to address inequality and the cost of living, as well as social and political reforms.

After weeks of unrest, the conservative president at the time, Sebastián Piñera, agreed to launch a process to rewrite Chile’s constitution.

The first draft, written by a body of 155 elected members, proposed reforms to Chile’s senate as well as formal recognition of the country’s indigenous groups, but was rejected by 62% of voters in September last year.

The version voted on in Sunday’s referendum was written by a new body of 51 elected representatives, 23 of whom were from the right-wing Republican Party.

Among the criticisms made by left-wing opponents were that it failed to protect indigenous rights, could have allowed restrictions to reproductive rights, and enshrined private sector participation in the provision of services such as health, education, and pensions.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who backed the first draft but remained neutral on the second, said ahead of the vote that it would be the last attempt at constitutional reform.

On Sunday, he reiterated the message, saying: “With this… the constitutional process is closed. There are other urgent matters.”

“Our country will continue with the current constitution, because after two plebiscites on proposed constitutions, neither managed to represent or unite Chile in its beautiful diversity.”

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