Upper house

Chile rejects draft constitution: five things to know

Analysts say some of the proposals it contained were too radical for most voters – the majority of whom have made it clear they want a new constitution, but not this one.

View of the front pages of a newspaper illustrating the victory of the rejection of a new Constitution the day after a referendum in a newsstand in downtown Santiago, September 5, 2022. Photo: Javier Torres / AFP.

SANTIAGO – Chileans have overwhelmingly rejected a draft constitution that would have replaced the constitution adopted under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Analysts say some of the proposals it contained were too radical for most voters – the majority of whom have made it clear they want a new constitution, but not this one.

Here are five things to know about possible factors in Sunday’s vote, in which 61.9% of voters rejected the draft constitution:

DISORDER PROJECT

Much of the drafting process was combative, even the opening session of the Constitutional Assembly was marred by protests from its own members.

Several issues had to be shelved as negotiators were unwilling to compromise, and there were many verbal attacks.

“More than the outcome of the text itself, what people had misjudged…was how this process had unfolded,” political analyst Marco Moreno told AFP. Central University of Chile.

Voters were put off by the disrespectful behavior and “excesses” on the part of some members of the assembly, he said.

One member reportedly voted from the shower, for example, while others came to work dressed as a Pokémon Pikachu character or a dinosaur.

TOO MUCH, TOO QUICKLY?

Many of the project’s most innovative proposals have raised fears that things are changing too much, too fast.

“There was some content (…) that generated resistance from broad sectors of society and increased levels of fear and uncertainty,” said Marcelo Mella, a political scientist at the University of Santiago.

Catholic-majority Chile was deeply divided over draft proposals guaranteeing the right to abortion, declaring access to water and health care as human rights and specifically recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, which, according to some, undermines the objective of national unity.

“Part of the (draft) constitution is very ‘millennial’, and those ‘millennial’ values ​​are not what the more traditional part (of society) wants,” said sociologist Marta Lagos.

Voters were also torn over a proposal to replace the Senate, the upper house of the bicameral Congress, with a so-called House of Regions.

Although it would have better represented regional interests, it would have had less power than the current Senate. Critics feared it would weaken the opposition’s veto powers, leaving too much power in the hands of the president.

BACK TO THE PRESIDENT?

After the initial euphoria during leftist President Gabriel Boric’s election victory last December, his approval rating recently dipped to just 38% – the same as the constitutional “Yes” vote.

Boric, who had promised a rights-based “welfare state” in place of the neoliberal status quo, has faced social unrest sparked in part by tough economic times, and some have questioned the wisdom of changes political dramas now.

“There is a significant protest vote” in the outcome of the constitutional process, Moreno said.

After Sunday’s coup, Boric said he would reshuffle his government team and hold political talks on how best to restart the constitutional process.

ECONOMIC ROLE?

After record growth of 11.7% in 2021, boosted by early withdrawals from pension funds and state aid to people struggling with the pandemic, the Chilean economy has entered a phase of slowdown and strong inflation.

“When our country decided to open the constituent process…it didn’t have the level of economic crisis it has today,” Mella said.

“People’s risk assessment may have changed, given the drastic change in economic conditions.”

‘SPIRAL OF SILENCE’

While the “No” side had been projected to win, the margin of victory was unexpected.

Analysts point to the so-called “spiral of silence”, the phenomenon in which people can hide their opinion on a controversial topic if they perceive they are in the minority, including in polls.

The high turnout of over 80% – 13 million out of some 15 million eligible voters – was unexpected, even though participation was technically compulsory.

“Virtually everyone who was supposed to vote ‘did,’ Moreno said. “It wasn’t in any analysis.”