Sep 4, 2022 - World

Chile votes on new constitution in a test for leftist President Boric

Supporters of Chile's new constitution attend the closing campaign rally in Santiago, on Sept. 1.
Supporters of Chile's new constitution attend the closing campaign rally in Santiago, on Sept. 1. Photo: Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Chileans are heading to the polls Sunday to vote on a proposed constitution that if adopted would usher in one of the most progressive constitutions in Latin America — and the world.

The big picture: Holding a vote on a new constitution garnered widespread support two years ago, but since its drafting, that support has dwindled amid what experts say is an abundance of misinformation, frustration over the process and uncertainty surrounding what's actually included in the proposed document.

Details: If the draft is adopted, Chile would become the first country in Latin America to enshrine sexual and reproductive rights into its Constitution.

  • The draft text would set up a national health care system, recognize access to drinkable water as a human right and give Indigenous tribes greater sovereignty.
  • Fighting climate change would become a constitutional duty of the state.
  • The draft constitution would also lift the statute of limitations on human rights violations committed during the 1973-90 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and ensure reparations.

Catch up quick: Nearly 80% of Chileans voted in October 2020 to begin the drafting process after months of mass protests.

  • Chile’s current Constitution dates to 1980, when Pinochet was in power. It privatized health, pension and education systems, which critics say fostered a highly unequal society despite the country’s wealth.
  • The draft text has been championed by leftist President Gabriel Boric, who took office this year as the youngest president in Chilean history.

The latest polls found 46% planning to vote to reject the new constitution and 37% to approve it, with 17% undecided. Chile’s 15 million voters are required to take part in Sunday's referendum.

  • The diminishing support for the draft text might be fueled by misinformation, analysts say. Several false statements about what's included in the draft constitution have gone viral in recent months.
  • Yes, but: Others say many in Chile lost faith in the convention elected to draft the constitution. At the same time, Boric's approval ratings have plummeted as inflation has surged.

What to watch: Polls close at 6pm local time, though it's unclear when the results will be announced.

  • Even if the draft constitution is approved on Sunday, changes are expected. Boric and his coalition have promised to make changes to and "clarify" some of the more controversial aspects of the proposed text.
  • It's unclear what will happen if the draft fails, though Boric has said the 2020 referendum on calling for a new constitution will stand, meaning a new drafting process could be started. Some opposition members in Congress, however, have suggested that lawmakers could just make amendments to the current Constitution instead.
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