Conservatives win in key vote for Chile’s new constitution

A far-right party leads the vote tally after Chileans voted on Sunday for a 50-member commission to draft a new constitution

SANTIAGO, Chile — A far-right party led the vote count on Sunday night after Chileans voted for a 50-member commission to draft a new constitution after voters overwhelmingly rejected a draft charter last year which was considered one of the most progressive.

It was a major defeat for Chile’s centre-left President Gabriel Boric, with the vote also widely seen as a referendum on his government, which currently has an approval rating of around 30%.

With 91% of the polling stations, the Republican Party, led by the far right José Antonio Kast, who lost the second round of the presidential election against Boric in 2021, came out on top with 35% of the vote. The Republican Party has long opposed the change to the constitution imposed by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

A coalition of leftist parties allied with Boric, Unity for Chile came second with 28% of the vote. A centre-right alliance, Safe Chile, was in third place with 21%. Null or blank votes accounted for 21% of the total.

Preliminary calculations indicated that the Republican Party would end up with around 22 representatives on the constitutional council, compared to 17 for Unity for Chile and 11 for Safe Chile.

If the two center-right groups, the Republicans and Safe Chile, unite, it could leave very little room for Boric’s allies to influence the final text. The preliminary tally suggested left-wing coalitions would fall short of the 21 seats needed to veto proposals or force consensus on certain issues.

Sunday’s vote marked a key milestone in efforts to propose a new constitution proposal after 62% of voters rejected the previous charter proposal in September. It had been the first in the world to be drafted by a convention divided equally between male and female delegates.

Once installed, the 50 members of the commission will not start from scratch, but will work from a preliminary document written by 24 experts who have been approved by Congress. The body’s proposal is due for a plebiscite in December.

Congress managed to subdue the protests by calling for a referendum on whether to draft a new constitution, which nearly 80% of voters agreed was needed.

Much of that enthusiasm seems to have faded, however. Ahead of Sunday’s vote, polls indicated there was widespread disinterest in the constitutional process.

Luis Rodríguez, a 70-year-old pensioner who voted on Sunday, said: “I decided to vote because it’s compulsory. …I don’t care about the outcome.

Another retiree, David Pino, 65, said he also voted out of obligation. Fines for those who don’t vote can reach $230.

Leave a comment