Jubilation in Chile as voters approve to replace Pinochet-era constitution
Chileans voted overwhelmingly to replace their military dictatorship-era constitution in a referendum, the electoral service said on Sunday evening, citing partial results.
With over 97% of the votes counted so far, about 78% had approved the option of a fresh charter to replace one drafted in 1980 under the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet.
More than 14 million people, both at home and abroad, were eligible to vote in the referendum. It was widely seen as the most important vote in Chile since the return to democracy in 1990.
The poll was set for April this year but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Citizens and democracy have triumphed,” Center-right President Sebastian Pinera said, following the early results. “This plebiscite is not the end, it is the beginning of a path that we must all walk together to agree on a new constitution for Chile,” he added.
“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.”
With more than three-quarters of the votes, many have expressed hopes that a new text will temper an unabashedly capitalist ethos with guarantees of more equal rights to healthcare, pensions, and education.
“This triumph belongs to the people, it’s thanks to everyone’s efforts that we are at this moment of celebration,” Daniel, 37, told Reuters News Agency in Santiago’s Plaza Nunoa. “What makes me happiest is the participation of the youth, young people wanting to make changes.”
The vote came a year to the day after more than one million people thronged downtown Santiago amid a wave of social unrest that left 30 people dead and thousands wounded.