Chilean voters overwhelmingly reject new progressive constitution

(Update 2: changes headline, lede, rewrite with final result, quotes, details throughout)

Santiago, Sep 4 (EFE).- An overwhelming majority of Chileans on Sunday voted to reject a new progressive constitution to replace the current text drafted in 1980 by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The new text, which has been defined as one of the most progressive in the world in terms of social rights, gender equality and environmental protection, garnered only 38 percent support and 62 percent against in the referendum with 99 percent of the votes counted. Voting was mandatory.

“The people of Chile have spoken and they have done so loudly and clearly,” President Gabriel Boric said.

“I promise to do everything on my part to build, together with Congress and civil society, a new constituent itinerary (…) Chilean men and women have demanded a new opportunity to meet and we must rise to the occasion in this called.”

Boric summoned the presidents of congress and representatives of civil society to meet Monday at La Moneda palace to chart a new path forward.

“We will carry out a round of talks to collect the proposals of the different sectors that have committed themselves to the country with establishing a new constituent process,” he said.

The new text was rejected in the 16 regions of the country, including the Metropolitan region, where the capital is located.

In south central regions such as Ñuble, Araucanía and Maule, more than 70 percent rejected the change.

“Today there are no winners or losers. There are Chileans who have to meet again,” said the leader of the rejection campaign, Claudio Salinas.

“We want to call for calm, to be proud of the work done (…) The 1980 constitution does not unite us or represent us,” said communist deputy Karol Cariola, spokesperson for the approve campaign.

The resounding result is reminiscent of the plebiscite of October 2020, called to channel the wave of protests of 2019 and in which 78.2 percent of Chileans voted for the drawing up of a new constitution.

Two years later, Chileans are not satisfied with the text that was drafted over a year by a convention of democratically elected citizens just for that purpose, with gender parity and seats reserved for indigenous people.

“Despite the fact that previous polls gave ‘Rejection’ as the winner, the difference achieved is greater than expected. There is a saying that is always imposed in Chile: the known devil is better than the [one unknown],” said Jeanne Simón of the University of Concepcion.

The multinational nature of the State, the right to abortion, presidential re-election, the justice system and the elimination of the Senate are some of the issues included in the new text that polarize citizens.

The two official coalitions Approve Dignity and Democratic Socialism promised to reform the text and moderate the most controversial aspects if approved, but it has not been enough to convince voters.

“The triumph of ‘Rejection’ is the great defeat of an ideology that tried to impose plurinationality on Chileans and many other concepts so foreign to our idiosyncrasies,” Gonzalo Müller, from the University for Development, told EFE.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the capital to celebrate the result, singing the national anthem and waving Chilean flags.

“It is a text that does not unite the country… It seems more like a government program,” said Christian Democrat senator Ximena Rincón, one of the faces of the center who distanced herself from her party and campaigned against the proposal.

For Robert Funk from the University of Chile, “neither the process nor the text were sufficient in times of economic insecurity, inflation and unemployment.” EFE

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