Chilean voters reject conservative constitution, after defeating leftist charter last year

Chile's President Gabriel Boric votes on the draft of a new constitution in Punta Arenas, Chile, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. For the second time in as many years, Chileans vote in a referendum on whether to replace the current constitution which dates back to the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. (AP Photo/Andres Poblete)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Voters rejected on Sunday a proposed conservative constitution to replace Chile’s dictatorship-era charter, showing both the deep division in the South American country and the inability of political sectors to address people’s demands for change made four years ago.

With nearly all votes counted late Sunday, about 55.8% had voted “no” to the new charter, with about 44.2% in favor.


The vote came more than a year after Chileans resoundingly rejected a proposed constitution written by a left-leaning convention and one that many characterized as one of the world’s most progressive charters.

The new document, largely written by conservative councilors, was more conservative than the one it had sought to replace, because it would have deepened free-market principles, reduced state intervention and might have limited some women’s rights.

The process to write a new constitution began after 2019 street protests, when thousands of people complained about inequality in one of Latin America’s most politically stable and economically strongest countries.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric said Sunday night that his government won’t try a third attempt to change the constitution, saying there are other priorities.

He admitted he wasn’t able to “channel the hopes of having a new constitution written for everyone.” On the contrary, he said, after two referendums, “the country became polarized, it was divided.”

Javier Macaya, the leader of the conservative Independent Democratic Union party, recognized the defeat and urged the government not to raise the issue again.

“From a perspective of coherence and respect for democracy, we recognize the results,” Macaya said.

Now, the constitution adopted during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet — which was amended over the years — will remain in effect.

That is what former President Michelle Bachelet had hoped for when she voted early Sunday.

“I prefer something bad to something worse,” said Bachelet, who campaigned to reject the latest charter proposal.

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