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The Chileans overwhelmingly rejected, on Sunday, the proposal for a new Constitution which aimed to replace that inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). According to the analyses, several political and economic factors largely explain this unequivocal result.
Some 61.9% of Chilean voters clearly refused, on Sunday September 4, to replace the Constitution in force since the years of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990). If broad social advances formed the basis of the proposed text, with new rights in terms of health, education, retirement or the environment, questions of “multinationality” with indigenous peoples, abortion, or suppression of the Senate provoked reactions of rejection. Overview.
A controversial process
The drafting process, operated by an assembly of 154 members elected on an equal basis, mostly from civil society, has advanced in an ongoing controversy since its installation in July 2021.
“More than the final text itself, what people had been criticizing for several weeks was the way this process had advanced,” said Marco Moreno, an analyst at the Central University, pointing to “excesses by many members of (the constituent Assembly”.
The text of 388 articles, considered avant-garde by several analysts, contained proposals deemed too radical for a large part of the population. “Certain contents of the proposed constitutional text have aroused resistance from large sections of society” Chilean, underlines Marcelo Mella, political scientist at the University of Santiago.
He points in particular to the proposal to abolish the Senate in favor of a “Chamber of Regions” that “many saw as the loss of a counterpower for the opposition”.
Make Chile a plurinational state with the recognition of new rights for the 11 indigenous peoples (12.8% of the population), anchor the right to abortion in a conservative society, create a public health system or recognize water as universal good, have in particular aroused the most tension. “Part of the Constitution is very ‘millenial’ (those who reached their majority in 2000 or later) and these values are not those claimed by the most traditional part”, majority in the country, explains sociologist Marta Lagos.
President Gabriel Boric, who took office on March 11, has seen his government’s approval ratings plummet. Only 38% say they are satisfied, the same rate as the vote for “yes” on Sunday.
Very active on many subjects, accused of “interventionist” by the opposition in the referendum campaign, the young 36-year-old president sees in this result “an important sanction vote which must be taken into account”, judges Marco Moreno.
The message seems to be heard and Gabriel Boric said he wanted to make adjustments to his government team and invited the opposition to discuss how a new constitutional process could be launched.
All the polls had predicted the victory of the “no” but not the extent of the rejection of the text in the population. The analysts discard themselves on the “spiral of silence”, those voters who do not make their position known to the pollsters.
Nor did any survey predict such a high participation rate, close to 80%, or some 13 million of the 15 voters called upon to express themselves in this compulsory vote under penalty of a fine.
The economic downturn
After record growth of 11.7% in 2021, artificially inflated by early withdrawals from private pension funds and public aid deployed to deal with the pandemic, the Chilean economy has entered a phase of severe economic slowdown and economic downturn. high inflation (+13% in one year).
“When our country decided to open the constitutional process” in 2020, “the level of crisis was not the same as today. Economic conditions changed abruptly and many were able to anticipate the risks differently” to take in the face of an uncertain future, adds Marcelo Mella.