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

Cheryl Sanders
October 26, 2020

The referendum has been a central demand of protests that began just over a year ago.

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All eligible Chileans from the country's population of 18 million are automatically registered to vote, but voting is optional.

The new constitution would expand the role of the state in providing a welfare safety net, ensuring basic rights to health, education, water distribution and pensions.

Jubilation as Chile votes to rewrite constitution

Within weeks, Pinera had agreed to initiate a process to draft a new constitution, beginning with a referendum to decide the fate of the current text.

The current constitution was drafted by dictator Augusto Pinochet's close adviser Jaime Guzman in 1980, and has only been tweaked by successive governments to reduce military and executive power.

Chileans have voted overwhelmingly for the country's Pinochet-era constitution to be redrafted, with more than a third of votes counted from around the nation and overseas, the electoral service said on Sunday evening. "This plebiscite is not the end, it is the beginning of a path that we must all walk together to agree on a new constitution for Chile", he added.

The sheer size of the 25 October march demonstrated the breadth of social discontent and proved a tipping point in demonstrators' demands for a referendum.

The free-market principles embodied in that document led to a booming economy that continued after the return to democracy in 1990, but not all Chileans shared. Many blame a system that has part-privatised services and utilities.

"Until now, the constitution has divided us", Mr Piñera said as people took to the streets in celebration.

"That is why tomorrow it is essential that all Chileans act with great serenity, responsibility, and solidarity", she said.

As votes were counted on live television around the country, excitement built as citizens streamed towards the capital Santiago's main squares.

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Plaza Italia, said the landslide victory had given Chileans something to celebrate after a year of sometimes violent protests.

With over 36 percent of the votes counted, 77.71 percent were in favor of redrafting the constitution, while 22.29 were against it.

"Many people know it's going to take at least two years to have a new constitution, and that would only set a roadmap for the future". About 79% supported having the charter be drafted by a convention of 155 elected citizens rather than a convention with half its members elected citizens and half members of congress.

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