The 178-page draft for a “social and democratic constitutional state” also provides for abortion rights and environmental protection to be anchored in the constitution. Due to its failure, the old constitution dating back to the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) remains in force for now.
Mourning mood in Plaza Italia
Chilean President Gabriel Boric, whose government suffered a serious blow from the rejection, conceded success to opponents of the new constitution. “The people of Chile were not satisfied with the draft presented by the Constitutional Convention and therefore decided to categorically reject it in the elections,” Boric said in a speech from the presidential palace. Faces were long in the pro-camp. At Plaza Italia in the capital, Santiago de Chile, the epicenter of social unrest in 2019, there was a mood of mourning.
The 36-year-old president said people depend on democracy to “overcome divisions and move forward”. He appealed to “all political forces” to put aside their differences of opinion and agree on the terms and timeframe of a new constitutional process.
Ultra-conservative opposition politician José Antonio Cast, an admirer of Pinochet, said: “President Boric: this defeat is also your defeat”. Cust lost a presidential runoff election against Boric in December.
It is not yet clear what will happen next, whether a completely new constitutional text should be drafted or whether the first version will be amended. In any case, Boric prepared and invited all political parties to analyze the continuity of the constitutional process on Monday, as reported by the Chilean newspaper “La Tercera”.
Defeat for the government
A Constituent Assembly had been working on the draft for a year. Among other things, Magna Carta guarantees the rights to housing, health and education. Also, half of all state organs should be occupied by women in future.
The rejection is a defeat for the government of former student leader Boric, who was elected Chile’s president in December at the age of 35 and committed himself to a new constitution. Among other things, he promised a public education and health system based on the European welfare state model.
So the vote on the draft has also become a vote on the government. This has not fared well during security crises, for example, due to arson and attacks by radicalized tribesmen from the Mapuche people in some areas in the south of the country.
rejected the support of the Constituent Assembly
A new basic law supported by Boric was also one of the main demands by the protesters who took to the streets en masse in late 2019. Two years ago, about 80 percent voted in favor of drafting a new basic law.
However, the Constituent Assembly’s support has declined over the months. Among other things, the scandal surrounding the fictitious cancer of a prominent delegate contributed to the fact that confidence in the Constitutional Convention declined. For many in conservative Chilean society, his draft for a progressive, social and environmental constitution probably went too far.