Despite recently electing Chile’s most progressive president in the shape of former student protest leader Gabriel Boric, voters in the country have now rejected his most important reform. A plebiscite held on September 4 to replace the constitution imposed during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet with a progressive new one led to a solid no vote. This has effectively halted Boric’s agenda for reform.
The final ballot stood at 62% rejecting (Rechazo) the proposed document and just 38% approving (Apruebo). It was a result that directly contradicted the initial plebiscite held in 2020 when 78% of voters backed the idea of a new constitution, after which Eliza Loncon, an indigenous left-wing academic was elected to oversee a constitutional convention to write the document.
The decision to rewrite the constitution came after months of political upheaval in 2019-20 caused by a crisis of inequality. Protests over metro fares in the capital, Santiago, developed into a mass social movement encompassing feminists, environmentalists, indigenous groups and anti-neoliberal activists calling for progressive socioeconomic change.