Chile to vote on overhauling dictatorship-era constitution

Chile to vote on overhauling dictatorship-era constitution

People demonstrate against the draft of the new constitution in front of Chile's presidential palace in Santiago, on August 31, 2022
People demonstrate against the draft of the new constitution in front of Chile's presidential palace in Santiago, on August 31, 2022. Photo: Martin BERNETTI / AFP/File
Source: AFP

New feature: Check out news exactly for YOU ➡️ find “Recommended for you” block and enjoy!

Chileans will vote Sunday on whether to adopt a new constitution and shift from a market-driven society to a more welfare-based one.

The proposed draft aims to replace the current constitution, written during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), that -- despite several successive reforms -- is still considered an obstacle to any fundamental social changes.

Education, health care and pensions are still in the hands of the private sector.

But despite an overwhelming majority of Chileans -- close to four-fifths -- voting previously to rewrite the constitution, opinion polls suggest the new document will be rejected.

Chief among the concerns of voters, though, is the prominence given to the country's Indigenous peoples, who make up close to 13 percent of the 19 million population.

Proposals to legalize abortion and protect the environment as well as natural resources such as water, which are currently often overexploited by private mining companies, have also garnered much attention.

Read also

'Submit or quit': Teacher, student brain drain hits Hong Kong schools

PAY ATTENTION: Follow us on Instagram - get the most important news directly in your favourite app!

For many people, the thought of a new constitution that aims to de-privatize certain key sectors has sparked fears.

"I don't want to be another Venezuela; we have a lot to lose," Patricio Gutierrez, 40, an engineer for a transnational mining company, told AFP.

Like many others, he fears the new constitution would generate instability and uncertainty, which could then harm the economy.

"Social reforms are necessary but not changing the rules in a country that is doing well," added Gutierrez.

Yet around 40 world-renowned economists and political scientists have expressed their support for the new project.

Starting somewhere

Supporters of Chile's new constitution attend the closing campaign rally in Santiago, on September 1, 2022, ahead of the upcomig referendum on September 4
Supporters of Chile's new constitution attend the closing campaign rally in Santiago, on September 1, 2022, ahead of the upcomig referendum on September 4. Photo: MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP
Source: AFP

Those in favor of the new constitution say it will prompt major changes in a conservative country marked by social and ethnic tensions and lay the foundation for a more egalitarian country.

Read also

On Afghan pullout anniversary, Biden has moved on

Anadriel Hernandez, 18, a first-time voter, expects the new constitution "will change Chile, maybe not overnight, because that would be impossible, but you always have to start somewhere."

One of the main drivers for the new constitution was the outbreak of massive social unrest in 2019, initially in response to a metro fare hike. But it mushroomed into demands for greater social justice in a country that enjoyed years of economic strength but widening inequality.

Many people blamed the constitution, which gave private enterprise free reign over crucial industries, creating fertile breeding ground for the rich to prosper and the poor to struggle.

Although the constitution has undergone several reforms since it was implemented in 1980, it retains the stigma of having been introduced during a dictatorship.

But Luz Galarce, 53, who teaches young children, said she will vote no because the idea to rewrite the constitution "came from a moment of great crisis in our country, it wasn't a decision taken objectively."

Read also

S.Sudan's ex-rebels set to join unified army

Rejection likely

Despite an overwhelming majority of Chileans -- close to four-fifths -- voting previously to rewrite the constitution, opinion polls suggest the new document will be rejected when people vote on September 4, 2022
Despite an overwhelming majority of Chileans -- close to four-fifths -- voting previously to rewrite the constitution, opinion polls suggest the new document will be rejected when people vote on September 4, 2022. Photo: Martin BERNETTI / AFP/File
Source: AFP

Some 15 million people will go to the ballot box in a compulsory vote.

Having already voted to rewrite the constitution and then elect the representatives to do so, this will be the third time in two years Chileans have headed to the polls over this issue.

The new text was drawn up by a constitutional commission made up of 154 members -- mostly without political affiliation -- split equally between men and women, and with 17 places reserved for Indigenous people.

The resulting proposal recognizes 11 Indigenous peoples and offers them greater autonomy, particularly in terms of justice.

It is the most controversial clause, with some critics accusing the authors of trying to turn the traditionally marginalized Indigenous people into a higher class of citizen.

"Most likely the reject vote will win, and for that to change depends on the number of people who vote and who votes," political scientist Marcelo Mella told AFP.

Read also

No choice: Colombia's ex-guerrillas revert to coca, crime

If accepted, Chile's congress will then start deciding how to apply the new laws. If the new text is rejected, then the current constitution will remain in place.

If that happens, then the simmering unrest that has gripped the nation for three years may well boil over once again.

New feature: Check out news exactly for YOU ➡️ find "Recommended for you" block and enjoy!

Source: AFP

Authors:
AFP avatar

AFP AFP text, photo, graphic, audio or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. AFP news material may not be stored in whole or in part in a computer or otherwise except for personal and non-commercial use. AFP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any AFP news material or in transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages whatsoever. As a newswire service, AFP does not obtain releases from subjects, individuals, groups or entities contained in its photographs, videos, graphics or quoted in its texts. Further, no clearance is obtained from the owners of any trademarks or copyrighted materials whose marks and materials are included in AFP material. Therefore you will be solely responsible for obtaining any and all necessary releases from whatever individuals and/or entities necessary for any uses of AFP material.

Online view pixel