Chileans took to the polls Sunday to vote on whether the country should adopt a new left-leaning constitution that would enshrine an unprecedented number of rights. Photo by Alberto Valdes/EPA-EFE
Sept. 4 (BP) — Chile will vote on whether to adopt a new leftist constitution that would enshrine a wide array of civil rights.
The ballot asks voters whether the country should replace its current constitution which was established under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s with a new leftist drafted through a democratic process.
The new constitution would make the Chilean state the guarantor of more than 100 rights, more than any other national constitution in the world, according to an analysis by the Comparative Constitutions Project cited by The New York Times.
Protections established in the new constitution include the right to housing, healthcare and education as well as freedom of expression, religion and worldview.
It would enshrine “sexual and reproductive rights” including the right for women to have “a voluntary interruption of their pregnancy” after the nation banned all forms of abortion until 2017 when it allowed exceptions in cases of rape, a threat to a woman’s life or deadly birth effects.
One of the most polarizing proposals is a provision defining Chile as a “plurinational” state which would allow 11 separate Indigenous groups in the country to be recognized as their own nations with governing structures and court systems.
“It divides Chile, and Chile is one nation,” Maria Yefe, a 65-year-old housekeeper who voted to reject the constitution told The Washington Post. “We’re going to be even more divided than we are now.”
Under the new constitution, Chile would also require that women hold at least 50% of many government positions, while providing workers the right to “equitable, fair and sufficient” pay as well as the freedom to unionize and strike.
It would also guarantee citizens the right to choose their identity “in all its dimensions and manifestations, including sexual characteristics, gender identities and expressions.”
The proposed constitution further states that “nature has rights” and “the state and society have the duty to protect and respect them” while further requiring the state to protect animals and recognize “their sentience and their right to live a life free from mistreatment.”
Chileans first voted to draft a new Constitution in October of 2020 following turbulent protests and mass demonstrations calling for structural change the year prior.
The nation elected a 155-member constitutional assembly made up of equal numbers of men and women, with 17 seats reserved for members of Indigenous communities, to put together the new constitution.
Despite the previous outcry, polls indicated that Chileans would likely reject this new constitution, with many criticizing it as too long and too radical.
“Chileans agree we need to change the constitution but not like this,” Maria Baros, a 42-year-old mother of two said.
Sunday’s vote also serves as a de facto referendum on progressive President Gabriel Boric, who was elected as the nation’s youngest president at 35 in December, as it would allow him to carry out his agenda.
“This is a historic moment, for which I think it’s very important that we should all, independent of our choice feel profoundly proud,” Boric. “In the difficult moments we went through as a country, we chose as a path, as a way to resolve our differences, an advance in more democracy and never in less.”
If the measure fails, Boric’s government will be tasked to find other ways to implement the change, or the president, who is facing declining approval rates, has suggested proposing another charter.