Chile and its Constitution
On Sunday, Chile rejected a proposed constitution after three years of protests, negotiating, and hard work from those involved. Nonetheless, it lost in an overwhelming vote of 62% against with around 85% voter turnout. The specific reasons for its failure are harder to understand simply from the results of the referendum. Many of those voting against likely voted in favor of a constitutional convention in 2020 and even the current leftist President Gabriel Boric. So, it’s not clear the referendum was an outright rejection of leftist ideas so much as a demand for greater moderation.
At the same time, many Chileans want to move beyond its old constitution including many who voted against the recent draft. The current constitution is a legacy of the Pinochet Dictatorship. It was drafted under the supervision of a brutal dictator rather than a more inclusive process. So, for many the present constitution is a source of shame rather than pride. Still, the present constitution is greatly changed after more than thirty years of democratic government. Chileans have amended their constitution fifty times since 1989 already. They have removed most of the most egregious legacies of their authoritarian past already.
However, many more reforms are still necessary. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that the Chilean people have come to an agreement on the specific solutions necessary. It’s likely many proposals within the proposed constitution will resurface as amendments to the present constitution in the coming years. Other ideas may need more work to garner public support. Nonetheless, Chileans will need to find those proposals where widespread consensus exists. The convention approached the construction of the constitution as something aspirational rather than consensual. Political leaders must salvage those parts where ambitious aspirations found a political consensus. Their ability to do so will define the convention’s ultimate legacy.