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Who Killed Chile’s Progressive New Constitution?

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.