| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

Chileans head to polls again to replace dictatorship-era constitution

Chileans will once more go to the polls to choose whether to amend their constitution, which was written during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

After widespread, fervent, and occasionally violent protests against inequality swept the country in 2019, Chile decided to replace its current text for the second time in as many years.

The first assembly elected to draft a new text was dominated by leftwing forces but their draft, which focused on social, indigenous, environmental and gender rights, was overwhelmingly rejected by voters last September. The electorate swung right for the second draft and voters elected an assembly dominated by conservative parties.

That text is now up for a vote on Sunday, and it is considered to be more conservative and market-friendly than the 1980 constitution it could replace. The proposed version places private property rights and strict rules around immigration and abortion at its center.

For months, polls have showed that voters are likely to reject this proposal too, but the gap tightened in the lead-up to the referendum. Pollster Cadem’s last survey on Dec. 1 before a 15-day poll blackout showed 47% planned to vote against the text (-3 points from Nov. 10) versus 38% who plan to approve it (+6 points).

Nicholas Watson, a managing director at Teneo Consultancy, a global CEO advisory firm, said in a report that regardless of the result, there’s a chance for greater public disillusionment with the political establishment.

“That leaves the causes of the 2019 protests largely unresolved, with all the risks that implies still latent,” Watson said.

If the new text is approved, the report said it could further hinder leftist President Gabriel Boric’s agenda of progressive tax and pension reforms.

“But while a ‘no’ win would provide Boric with a boost, it would not be transformative since he would still have failed on one of his core objectives – to replace the 1980 constitution,” the report said.

Polls will open at 8 a.m. local time (1100 GMT) and will close at 6 p.m. (2100 GMT). Results are expected at about 8 p.m. (2300 GMT).

  • Reuters