Chileans vote to reject new progressive constitution

Indigenous rights, environmental protections, gender parity and legalised abortion prove too radical for voters

Supporters of ‘Rejection’ celebrate in Santiago, Chile
Supporters of ‘Rejection’ celebrate in Santiago
(Image credit: Lucas Aguayo Araos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Chileans have voted overwhelmingly against a new constitution that would have been one of the most progressive in the world.

With almost all votes counted, reports suggest that nearly 62% rejected the draft constitution. The margin of defeat is much larger than opinion polls had suggested and is “a slap in the face” for 36-year-old President Gabriel Boric, who had backed the new document, said the BBC.

Following mass protests three years ago that rocked a country long seen as a bastion of stability in South America, some 80% of Chileans voted in 2020 to replace the existing constitution drawn up by former military dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1980.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The new document “included a long list of social rights and guarantees that had appeared to respond to the demands of that vast social movement”, reported The Guardian.

The constitution would have enshrined gender parity across government and other organs of the state, requiring by law “for the first time anywhere in the world” that women hold at least 50% of positions in official institutions. It would have also declared Chile a “plurinational” state, recognising the rights of Chile’s indigenous populations, which make up about 13% of the population.

Dwindling support for the new constitution “could at least partly be blamed on the prominence given to Chile’s Indigenous population”, said DW, as well as fears it would “legalize abortion in a country where half of the population is Roman Catholic”. Critics said the proposed charter “was too long, lacked clarity and went too far in some of its measures”, said Al Jazeera.

The BBC added that mandatory voting may have meant that “voters who had even slight doubts about the text chose to reject it in the hope that a new version would prove more to their liking”.

“What happens now amounts to a big question mark,” said France 24. Chile’s political leaders “of all stripes” agree that the constitution, which dates from the country’s 1973-1990 dictatorship, needs to be updated, but exactly when and how this process will take place remains to be seen. Until then, said The Guardian, “Chile’s future looks decidedly uncertain”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Elliott Goat is a freelance writer at The Week Digital. A winner of The Independent's Wyn Harness Award, he has been a journalist for over a decade with a focus on human rights, disinformation and elections. He is co-founder and director of Brussels-based investigative NGO Unhack Democracy, which works to support electoral integrity across Europe. A Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow focusing on unions and the Future of Work, Elliott is a founding member of the RSA's Good Work Guild and a contributor to the International State Crime Initiative, an interdisciplinary forum for research, reportage and training on state violence and corruption.