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The road after the referendum

The rejection of the constitutional proposal in Chile was overwhelming, but this does not imply that Chileans (at least 80%) want Pinochet’s Constitution. The victims of this result are the Chilean people, who will see the possibility of better education, decent pensions, guaranteed access to health care and a social and democratic state of rights postponed.


Carmen Esquivel


In the referendum of 4 September, the “Reject” option won by 61.86% of the votes against 38.14% for “Approve”. More than 13 million Chileans voted. After the results were known, President Gabriel Boric declared that the people were not satisfied with the draft presented by the constitutional convention and therefore rejected it.

The president expressed his commitment to build, together with Congress and civil society, a new process, and to this end he summoned the main leaders of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and the ruling and opposition parties to the Palacio de La Moneda. Questioned by Prensa Latina about the day, the journalist and director of the daily El Siglo, Hugo Guzmán, described it as a setback for the progressive and left-wing sectors. “A setback in the process of arriving at a constitution that was defined as one of rights, plurinational, parity and democratic participation,” he said.

Guzmán attributed the causes of this result to a variety of factors. “First, one cannot forget the whole campaign of fake news, disinformation and distortion of the constitutional text.

Then, associated with this was a media campaign of fear, in the sense that issues such as pensions were going to be withheld or property and housing expropriated, women could have abortions at eight months of pregnancy and the national anthem and flag were going to be changed. This also had an impact.

According to a study published by the digital media Ciper, dedicated to investigative journalism, at least 36 organisations not under the control of the Electoral Service disseminated content on Facebook and Instagram about the constitutional proposal and 97.4% of the total amount spent corresponded to initiatives opposed to the text.

Another factor that affected the outcome of the consultation, Guzmán pointed out, is that the Constitutional Convention committed errors of form and substance: “We are talking about embarrassing episodes involving some members. There was also a lack of good and better communication about what was being discussed and analysed”.  Finally, he said, after many years the vote was once again compulsory, 13 million out of 15 million voted, and there is a large number of voters who had not clearly identified their aspirations.

A great paradox

A great paradox occurred in this election because in the first plebiscite of 2020, after the social outbreak, close to 80% of the population voted in favour of changing the 1980 constitution, seen by citizens as obsolete and the cause of privatisation and high inequality.

The proposal submitted to referendum to replace it contained articles such as the recognition of indigenous peoples, the defence of the environment, women’s rights and universal access to basic services such as education and health.

Photo: Marcella Via

But other articles raised controversy in a conservative country, such as declaring Chile a plurinational and intercultural state where diverse peoples and nations coexist, the change in the judiciary and the elimination of the Senate.

Regarding the post plebiscite scenario, after the president expressed his willingness to continue the constitutional process, Guzmán said that the process has to continue because it is a mandate from the citizens to move towards a new fundamental law. The issue now is how it continues”.

He explained that the left is considering electing another convention to draft a new proposal.

However, there are sectors of the right, the extreme right, and even some liberals, social democrats, who advocate that it should be done by Parliament or by a group of experts.

In any case, President Boric must send a draft to Congress on what the mechanism would be and there it would be put to a vote. That is an issue in dispute. The road ahead is arduous because both in the Senate and in the Lower House, the right-wing forces and the progressive sectors are practically tied, and there the discussion would be quite heated.

“Right-wing parliamentarians could vote against the bill and thereby delay or distort this part of the process and prevent it from moving forward in a democratic framework,” the analyst warned.

In the meantime, the constitution imposed by the dictatorship remains in force, with some reforms made during the governments of the political transition. PL

(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: Pixabay



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