It comes as a shock that after three years of debate and fight for reformation, Chile has rejected the adoption of a leftist constitution. On Sunday, September 4, 2022, 62% of the Chileans voted against a constitution that would have legalized abortions, adopt universal health care, and granted more rights than any national charter. It was meant to be a response to the uprising of violent protests in 2019 over inequality in the country.
The constitution, supported by leftist president Gabriel Boric, comprised 388 articles that if implemented, would have extended social rights, increased environmental regulation, provided gender parity and added designated seats for indigenous representatives. It would have also given the government extensive responsibility for social welfare programs. The constitution was rejected nationwide, especially in the capital city of Santiago, where violence spurred as a result. Cities all across Chile were erupting with protests against the constitution, and later with celebrations when it was rejected.
As an international studies major, a key focus area has always been how citizens of countries with different regimes react to policies implemented by their government and the power that citizens have to overturn those policies. This is why one of the questions that immediately came to mind was why, despite the potential and promising benefits that it could have offered, was the new constitution rejected?
Here is what some Chilean voters have expressed:
“A draft of a constitution written with anger highlighting tensions and division, would not have been good for Chile.”
Of course it was rejected. It’s impossible to change everything just like that.”
“People believed social media, believed lies, and they voted with fear. They thought Chile would become another Venezuela.”
Rightist views argued that the constitution was too ambitious and wanted to lead the country with extreme leftist rules, which would be too difficult to implement effectively. Voters also argued that the new constitution does not take into account and align with their views. For example, a major reason that voters opposed the new constitution was because it defined Chile as a “plurinational” state.
Rejection of the leftist constitution means the rejection of a completely transformed system that Chileans have, for years, wanted to see in power. As I alluded earlier, the 178 page document would have legalized abortions, mandated universal health care and gender parity in government, empowered labor unions, strengthened regulations on mining, granted right to animals and nature, and expanded the rights given to indigenous groups. So, in giving up the new and reformed constitution, Chileans are also, in a sense, giving up a future free of the many challenges they face today.
One of the aims of the new constitution was to steer away from Chile’s authoritarian past.
Boric’s response to the rejection of the new constitution was reflective yet perseverant:
“This decision by Chilean men and women requires our institutions and political actors to 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 country.”