World News – CA – Chileans overwhelmingly vote for new constitution


Wang Yi of China on two decades of a shared journey to new heights in the new era

China’s Wang Yi on two decades of a shared journey to new heights in the new era

Protesters supporting the reform of the Chilean constitution celebrate at Plaza Italia in Santiago © AFP / MARTIN BERNETTI

Santiago, Chile, October 25 – Chileans voted overwhelmingly in a landmark referendum on Sunday to replace their dictatorship-era constitution, long seen as the foundation of the country’s glaring economic and social inequalities

The result sparked wild celebrations in the capital and other cities after voters rejected the constitution left behind by the regime of 1973-1990 dictator Augusto Pinochet

Thousands of people flocked to the streets of Santiago amid a cacophony of horns to celebrate a landslide victory for the « Approve » campaign – by 7,828 percent to 2,172 with over 99% of votes counted

« I never imagined that we Chileans would be able to unite for such a change! » said a cheerful Maria Isabel Nunez, 46, as she walked through the crowd holding hands with her 20-year-old daughter

Chilean polling stations will remain open longer than usual to avoid overcrowding due to the coronavirus pandemic that has hit the country hard © AFP / JAVIER TORRES

Acknowledging the result, President Sebastian Pinera called on the nation to work together for a « new constitution » in a speech broadcast from his Moneda palace surrounded by his cabinet

« 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, » Pinera said

« Until now, the constitution has divided us From today, we must all work together so that the new constitution is the great framework of unity, stability and the future »

Chileans are asked two questions on the ballot: whether to approve or reject a new constitution and, if necessary, what kind of body should draft it – a mixed assembly made up of equal numbers of lawmakers and citizens, or a convention of 155 members © AFP / JAVIER TORRES

The result is a slap in the face for the Chilean political class, according to Marcelo Mella, political scientist at the University of Santiago

« Such a strong vote in favor of constitutional convention should be read as a rejection of the political parties, which to a large extent were administrators of Pinochet’s constitution, of the regime we inherited from him, » said Mella to AFP

Previously, in long, orderly queues in Santiago and cities across the country, masked voters patiently walked to polling stations to participate in the historic referendum

The vote came a year to the day after more than a million people gathered in downtown Santiago amid a wave of social unrest that left 30 dead and thousands of wounded

The scale of the October 25 march demonstrated the scale of social discontent and was a tipping point in protesters’ demands for a referendum

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, 70, has not come out publicly for both sides of the campaign, and his conservative coalition is divided over constitutional change © AFP / CLAUDIO REYES

Within weeks, Pinera had agreed to launch a process of drafting a new constitution, starting with a referendum to decide the fate of the current text

« I am full of hope that things will change and that we will bring a radical turnaround in this country, » said Romina Nunez, 42, organizer of the poll at the Santiago National Stadium, the largest voting center from the country

Thousands of people voted in the vast stadium, which has seen infamy as a detention center where opponents of the military regime have been tortured

A protester is sprayed with water cannons during a demonstration against the government of President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago ahead of Sunday’s referendum © AFP / MARTIN BERNETTI

Elias Perez, a psychologist, 39, said he wanted to give the place another meaning as he prepared to vote for change in a place rich in symbolism

“To be able to exercise the right to vote in a space of deep pain, where there have been systematic violations of the human rights of many Chilean compatriots, and to be able to generate changes in this same space – is a symbolic way of paying honor and homage to all those who are no longer with us ”, he declared.

The demand for a new constitution was a recurring theme of the protests, sparked by a rise in public transport fares

Soldiers transport a woman in a wheelchair to a polling station in Santiago during the constitutional referendum © AFP / JAVIER TORRES

They quickly turned into widespread protests against social and economic inequalities – in health, education, housing and pensions – inherited from Pinochet’s reign

For those who support change, the constitution is an obstacle to meaningful social reforms, and a new one is needed to provide more equitable access to private healthcare, education and pension systems

The new constitution would expand the role of the state by providing a social safety net, guaranteeing basic rights to health, education, water supply and pensions

Many conservatives, however, say the constitution has been key to Chile’s decades of economic growth and stability, and that a bigger role for the state would add pressure on an economy struggling to emerge. of the Covid-19 health crisis

Strict coronavirus protocols were in place for the vote, which analysts said kept the referendum turnout at just over 50% despite the long lines that persisted outside the polls. polling stations

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Chile, Augusto Pinochet, referendum, Chileans

News from around the world – CA – Chileans vote overwhelmingly for a new constitution



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