Chilean citizens overwhelmingly voted to draft a new constitution to replace former guiding principles put in place four decades ago under General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. More than 7.5 million of 14.97 million eligible voters opted to overhaul the constitution Sunday; the largest voter turnout since Chile instituted voluntary voting in 2012. Citizens want the new constitution to reflect their demands for healthcare, pension and education reforms.
A Convention of 155 elected members are set to draft the new constitution over a nine-month period, which may be extended for up to three months. New rules will ensure that men and women are given equal footing in the Convention election process due to take place on April 11, 2021. After Convention members are fairly selected, proposals must be approved by a two-thirds majority. By mid-2022, the country will hold a plebiscite to approve or reject the draft constitution.
“Today is the time to heal the wounds of the past, unite wills and look up to the future,” Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said in a recent press release. In his statement, Piñera vowed to honor citizens’ demands by preserving democratic principles:
Our Government assumed two firm and clear commitments, which constitute a State mission: [f]irst, to organize and develop a transparent, participatory and secure Plebiscite, so that the will of Chileans could be expressed freely and peacefully. … We were also committed to protecting the health of Chileans, for which we applied all the sanitary regulations that the voting process required. … [S]econd, promote a Constitution that includes the values and principles that live in the soul of our society. A Constitution that honors the democratic and republican traditions of our nation. A constitution that recognizes and protects the rights and aspirations of citizens. And a constitution that organizes the Powers of the State and protects citizens from abuse and discrimination. Our Government will always be on the side of freedom, democracy, peace and Human Rights. Our Government will always be committed to the rule of law, justice and equal dignity, opportunities, rights and duties of all our compatriots.
If the Convention approves the draft, the Plenary Congress will convene to formally approve the new constitution, and an official announcement will be published within 10 days in the Official Gazette. The new constitution will enter into force on the day of publication.