HaHylians head to polls on Sunday to approve or reject what they say is the world’s most progressive constitution to replace a 1980 document drawn up during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
The referendum was the culmination of a tumultuous three years of protests and political upheaval, with protests against subway fares escalating into widespread rebellion against deep-seated inequalities and a divided political class.
Many hope the new constitution will lead the country toward a more just future, but the document has been criticized for being lengthy and inaccurate.
The campaign ended Thursday night after weeks of enthusiastic advocacy.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of Santiago to watch politicians, celebrities and musicians claim their approval of the proposal.
Nearby, a small crowd of hundreds waving Chilean flags gathered for the final rally of the denial campaign.
Polls consistently show that Chileans will vote to reject the constitution, but campaigns in favor of the proposal are gaining momentum as the vote draws nearer.
Among the crowd calling for a new future under the proposed constitution was Manuela Chateau Vives, an 18-year-old Santiago student voting for the first time.
“It’s very exciting to vote for a constitution that represents the demands we made during the protests,” she said, peering through a sea of flags into a stage set up on one of the capital’s main streets. Our generation is the one who jumped over the ticket barrier and started this movement, and now it’s up to us to end it.”
In October 2019, high school students jumped over turnstiles at stations around Santiago to protest rush-hour subway fare increases.
A small act of civil disobedience sparked a wave of dissent, ignited a political crisis, and ultimately prompted political leaders to agree to a new constitutional referendum. nearly 80% of voters chose the new document.
The draft promotes gender equality, recognizes Chile’s indigenous peoples for the first time, and holds the state accountable for climate change mitigation.
However, the change in the political system to replace the Senate with “local chambers” made up of representatives from all over the country has come under heavy criticism.
“There is a very strong indigenous bias in the constitution,” said Christian Warnken, a lecturer and columnist who founded a centrist party to voice his concerns over the proposal.
“Political system [it proposes] is an experiment and there is nothing like it in the world. The list of social rights is difficult to fund. Irresponsible. ”
Other observers are less concerned.
“It’s a good constitution,” says David Landau, a law professor at Florida State University who has been following the process closely in Santiago.
“Nothing too radical. It reflects contemporary constitutional tendencies, with a handful of innovative provisions.”
Some international support has been enthusiastic, but the Financial Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post have all published scathing criticisms of the proposal and suggested a rewrite.
The consequences and future course of action if the Chileans reject the offer are far from certain.
Elections in Chile are typically voluntary and characterized by low turnout, but the referendum requires everyone over the age of 18 to vote.
If ‘denial’ wins, President Gabriel Boric said a new convention should be elected and the process repeated.Warnken’s bloc proposed a new process involving more experts .
Some have suggested reforming the current constitution, which is unpopular in Congress.
If the proposal is rejected, the Pinochet-era document will remain in force while a solution is sought and the Chilean public will be prepared for further protests.