After a year of anti-government protests, an early count of Sunday’s referendum results showed around 78 per cent voted in favour of the change, sparking mass celebrations on the streets of Santiago with singing, dancing and firecrackers.
The protests, a broad people’s movement against the system as a whole, had called for an end to the constitution created by General Augusto Pinochet in 1980, whose 17-year military rule was characterised by multiple human rights violations.
Many of those who have come out on the streets to protest in recent months see the dictatorial-era constitution as the root cause of the country’s social and economic inequalities.
Chileans were voting on two factors in the referendum: first, if the constitution should be re-written or not; and secondly if the the new constitution should be drafted by ordinary citizens or a board consisting of both legislators and citizens. The majority voted in favour of the former.
The specially-elected body will consist of 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men, who will be selected over time until 2022. Once a draft text of the new constitution is ready, another referendum will be held to ask Chileans if they agree with the new constitution, or if they want to go back to the old one.
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, in a speech broadcast after voting concluded on Sunday, 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 future.”
He said any new draft must incorporate “the legacy of past generations, the will of present generations and the hopes of generations to come”.