(AP) Chileans resoundingly rejected a new constitution to replace a charter imposed by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet 41 years ago, dealing a stinging setback to President Gabriel Boric who argued the document would have ushered in a new progressive era.
With 99% of the votes counted in Sunday’s plebiscite, the rejection camp had 61.9% support compared to 38.1% for approval amid heavy turnout with long lines at polling states. Voting was mandatory.
The approval camp conceded defeat, with its spokesman Vlado Mirosevic saying: “We recognize this result and we listen with humility to what the Chilean people have expressed.”
Boric, who had lobbied hard for the new document, said the results made it evident the Chilean people “were not satisfied with the constitutional proposal that the convention presented to Chile.”
Most Chileans favor changing the dictatorship-era constitution and Boric made it clear the process to amend it would not end with Sunday’s vote. He said it was necessary for leaders to “work with more determination, more dialogue, more respect” to reach a new proposed charter “that unites us as a country.”
The rejection was widely expected in this country of 19 million as months of pre-election polling showed that Chileans had grown wary of the proposed charter that was written by a constituent assembly in which a majority of delegates were not affiliated with a political party.
Carlos Salinas, a spokesman for the Citizens’ House for Rejection, said the majority of Chileans saw rejection as “a path of hope.”
“We want to tell the government of President Gabriel Boric… that ’today you must be the president of all Chileans and together we must move forward,” he said.
Despite the broad expectations of defeat for the proposed new charter, no analyst or pollster had predicted such a large margin for the rejection camp, showing how Chileans were not ready to support a charter that would have been one of the most progressive in the world and would have fundamentally changed the South American country.
The proposed document was the first in the world to be written by a convention split equally between male and female delegates, but critics said it was too long, lacked clarity and went too far in some of its measures, which included characterizing Chile as a plurinational state, establishing autonomous Indigenous territories, and prioritizing the environment and gender parity.
But others had fervently hoped it would pass.
Italo Hernández, 50, said he backed the changes as he exited the polling station in the National Stadium in Chile’s capital of Santiago. “We have to leave behind Pinochet’s constitution that only favored people with money.”
Hernández said it was “very symbolic and very emotional” to be voting at a stadium that had been used as a detention and torture site during the military dictatorship.