Chileans are voting in a referendum on whether to adopt a new, progressive constitution that would enact sweeping institutional reforms, transforming a market-oriented society into a more welfare-based society.
Opinion polls suggest that the new text that would replace the current constitution, adopted in 1980 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, could be rejected in Sunday’s vote.
It was written after political and social unrest swept through Chile in 2019.
But while 80% of Chileans voted for the drafting of a new constitution at the end of 2020, the last poll before the referendum suggested that 47% of voters intend to reject the draft constitution against 38% for yes. and 17% for the undecided.
Unlike previous elections, voting is compulsory for more than 15 million eligible voters.
Controversial articles included in the proposed constitution
Declining support for the new law could at least partly be attributed to the prominence given to Chile’s indigenous population, which makes up nearly 13% of the country’s 19 million people. It offers them greater autonomy, particularly in judicial matters.
There are also fears that he will legalize abortion in a country where half the population is Roman Catholic.
Moreover, it puts the environment at the center of attention in a country that is the world’s largest producer of copper.
“What you can see is a certain conservatism in the Chilean electorate that we haven’t seen in years,” sociologist Marta Lagos told AFP news agency.
Leftists keep hope despite dismal polls
Supporters of the new constitution still held out hope despite the dismal poll numbers.
“People will go out and vote in droves and the polls will be wrong once again,” said Juan Carlos Latorre, a lawmaker in leftist President Gabriel Boric’s ruling coalition, which backs the new text.
At the closing rally of the campaign to approve the new constitution on Thursday evening, 500,000 people turned out.
The new constitution would also overhaul Chile’s government, replacing the Senate with a less powerful “chamber of regions” and requiring women to hold at least half of the positions in public institutions.
Boric has publicly pledged to edit or clarify some of the more controversial points in the document if it is approved.
low/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)