Chile's constitutional referendum and the challenges ahead

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Oct 27, 2020, 10.18 PM(IST)

People who supported replacing the constitution celebrate following the referendum Photograph:( Reuters )

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It's a new dawn for Chile as its people have spoken in no uncertain terms that they want a new constitution.

It's a new dawn for Chile as its people have spoken in no uncertain terms that they want a new constitution.

One that promises equality in a rigorously capitalist society. The referendum was held on Sunday, and 7.5 million people turned out to vote, marking the highest turn-out since 2012. The result came late on Monday - a landslide verdict as 78 per cent of the voters demanded a new constitution.

Chile's old constitution was the work of Augusto Pinochet: a dictator who ruled the country from 1973 to 1990. It was drafted by people hand-picked by Pinochet, then given legitimacy in a massively rigged vote. Technically, the old constitution is still in effect. Chile will hold another referendum in 2022, which will decide whether the newly drafted constitution will be enacted or not.

Also read: Chileans vote in massive numbers to replace dictatorship-era constitution

But for now, Chileans are rejoicing. Thousands of people celebrated on the streets of Santiago and burned a large cut-out of the old constitution. The last remnant of the Pinochet era is almost gone. The referendum was the easy part, drafting a new constitution will be the real challenge.

The wishlist includes greater state control of the economy, recognition of the Mapuche indigenous population, collective land and water rights, and reforms to the education and health system. Politically, this is a huge blow to President Sebastian Pinera, a conservative-leaning politician.

His government took months to agree to a referendum despite massive protests in 2019. Many believe his government's policies have widened the wealth gap in Chile. On the face of it, Pinera welcomed the vote as a chance to create unity.

Also read: Polls open in Chile on whether to rewrite dictatorship-era constitution

"This plebiscite is not the end, but the beginning of a path which we must walk together in order to agree on a new constitution for chile. Up until now the constitution has divided us. From now we have to collaborate all together for the new constitution to be a great frame for unity, stability and future", Sebastian Pinera said.

Chile is bracing for two years of intense political activity. In 2022, there will be a referendum on the new constitution. This will follow closely on the heels of a general election which is slated for November 2021.

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