With nearly all ballots counted, 62% of voters rejected the proposal with 38% in favor, according to the Electoral Service of Chile.
The proposed constitution, which had the backing of left-wing President Gabriel Boric, included 388 articles that would significantly expand social rights, increase environmental regulation, and give the government greater responsibility for social welfare programs. It would also provide full gender equality and add designated seats for indigenous representatives.
The document was rejected in all Chilean provinces, including the more progressive capital of Santiago and its metropolitan area, where voters overwhelmingly supported Boric in the presidential election last December.
Boric responded to the defeat in a televised address to the nation after polling closed on Sunday.
“Today the Chilean people spoke and did it loudly and clearly,” said Boric. “They gave us two messages. The first is that they love and appreciate their democracy … The second is that the Chilean people were not satisfied with the proposed constitution and, therefore, decided to reject it outright at the polls.”
Images of Santiago on Sunday show a gloomy mood among supporters of the constitution, while others celebrated the news that it had been rejected.
The current constitution was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile with an iron fist from 1973 to 1990. Proponents of the new constitution wanted a break from Chile’s authoritarian past and a document that reflected interests communities that, according to them, had been ignored.
Why change the constitution?
The proposed change was initiated in 2020 when then-president Sebastien Piñera called a referendum on creating a new constitution amid social unrest and popular discontent triggered by a hike in metro fares in October 2019.
The Constitutional Assembly was the first in the world to have full gender equality and the first in the country’s history to include designated seats for indigenous representatives.
Proponents hoped his progressive stance would be reflected in a new and updated constitution.
And the constitutional process itself has been praised internationally for providing the country with an institutional way out of a social crisis and for responding to the demands of modern Chileans for greater equality and a more inclusive and participatory democracy.
According to University of Chile professor Robert Funk, the removal of the remnants of the past imposed by Pinochet was a key factor in the creation of a new constitution.
“The existing constitution in Chile was originally written in 1980 under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It has been amended many, many times since then; but it has always been questioned because it was imposed during a dictatorship,” Funk said.
Path to rejection
But although most Chilean voters supported the idea of a constitutional change in October 2020, divisions emerged over the proposed draft.
Soon after the draft was made public, several polls began to show a growing trend towards rejection of the card, with the government publicly acknowledging that scenario.
The defeated constitution would have been one of the most progressive in the world, giving the state a frontline role in providing social rights.
The draft placed a strong emphasis on indigenous self-determination and environmental protection, and would dismantle the highly privatized system of water rights, demand gender equality in all public institutions and companies, and enshrine respect for the sexual diversity. It also envisaged a new national health system.
But the project he became bitterly divided.
The right argued that the draft would either move the country too far to the left or that it was too ambitious and difficult to turn into effective laws. Ahead of the vote, some of his leftist supporters also wanted adjustments, with their slogan “approve the reform”.
The opposition has promised to start a new process to rewrite the constitution, promising voters that the next one will better reflect their interests.
In his Sunday speech, Boric signaled that this was not the end of the reform efforts.
“This decision by Chilean men and women requires that our institutions and political actors work harder, with more dialogue, with more respect and care, until we arrive at a proposal that interprets us all, that is trustworthy, that unites us as a country “. Boric said.
Michelle Velez, Daniela Mohor W. and Jorge Engels of CNN contributed to this report.