Chilean voters soundly reject far-left constitution
Chilean voters decisively rejected a proposed far-left constitution in a major blow for Chile’s formerly ascendant Left, especially President Gabriel Boric.
The proposed constitution, crafted by a coalition of mostly far- and center-left candidates, would have been one of the longest ever, enshrining over 100 fundamental rights across 170 pages and 388 articles, according to the Economist. In a mandatory referendum, approximately 62% of voters voted against the new constitution. Not a single one of Chile’s 16 regions voted in favor. The country will for now keep the Chilean Constitution, which was originally drafted under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
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Among the more than 100 fundamental rights proposed in the proposed constitution were “neurodiversity,” “adequate, healthy, sufficient, nutritionally complete and culturally relevant food,” sex education, abortion, physical activity, “safe and violence-free environments,” universal healthcare, free time, an unfettered right for trade unions to strike, and the right for Chileans to develop their “personality, identity and life projects.” Autonomous territories would be set up for indigenous Chileans with their own governing and justice systems, elected bodies would be required to be composed of “at least” 50% women, the government would be required to fight climate change, and property rights would be weakened, according to the New York Times.
“Chileans’ decision demands our institutions and political leaders to work harder, with more dialogue, respect, and care, until we reach a proposal that reflects us all,” Boric said in an address to the nation on Sunday. “As president of the republic, I take this message with great humility. … We must listen to the voice of the people.”
The leftist Boric is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet and go back to the drafting stage. Disapproval of his presidency has shot up from 20% in March, when he took office, to 53% now, according to the Economist. Growing disaffection with the ruling leftist coalition, along with the overwhelming rejection of the proposed constitution, may be signs of an end to the good fortunes of a resurgent Left that seized power following dramatic mass protests in one of Latin America’s most conservative countries.
Experts pointed to a variety of factors they believe led to the resounding failure of the new draft, but they mainly focused on the large number of rights being proposed and the alienating behavior of the convention and its supporters.
“How the hell do you vote on a constitution with 388 articles?” Chilean political scientist Gabriel Negretto told the New York Times. “You are overwhelming voters.”
The convention members were appointed by a Leftist coalition, including Chile’s Communist Party, which was voted in last year, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in many older, conservative voters staying home, according to the Economist. Voter turnout was just 42%.
The behavior of the convention was especially singled out as an alienating factor to Chileans. The proclamation by one member that the Left was “going to make the big agreements, and everyone else will have to join us,” outraged people who weren’t explicitly a part of Chile’s Left, according to the Economist. The far-left members of the convention were also prone to disrespecting Chile’s national symbols, such as when some members shouted over the orchestra playing Chile’s national anthem during the convention’s opening.
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One particularly alienating performance occurred in the city of Valparaiso just a week before the vote at an event in favor of the new constitution when “a drag queen had the national flag pulled out of his rectum while his bandmates encouraged the audience to ‘abort Chile,’” according to the Economist, resulting in widespread outrage.
Following the announcement of the new draft’s defeat, massive crowds of opponents took to the streets in celebration. In one particularly jubilant celebration, a chant broke out, saying, “Whoever doesn’t jump is a communist!”