Chile holds vote to elect new body to rewrite constitution

SANTIAGO: Chileans voted on Sunday (May 7) to elect the 50 members of a committee that will write a new constitution to replace the dictatorship-era one that has been in vigor for more than 40 years.

It is the second time that Chileans have been called to take part in the rewriting of the 1980 constitution adopted under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

In September, a previous text produced by a constitutional assembly made up mostly of political independents was rejected by 62 percent of voters.

More than 15 million Chileans are eligible to vote but the buildup to the election was met with widespread apathy.

There are 350 people hoping to be elected to the 50-member constitutional committee.

Polling booths opened at 8am and are due to close at 6pm.

The new committee will be given a preliminary text, drawn up by experts, that includes 12 essential principles that cannot be modified.

The committee must then come up with a new constitution that will be put to a public vote in December.

The government of conservative former president Sebastian Pinera had agreed to hold a referendum on a new constitution in a bid to ease mass protests that broke out in October 2019 against social inequality.

“As a country we have a historic opportunity to reconcile ourselves after the fractures we’ve lived through and to advance toward a developed and inclusive country,” said leftist President Gabriel Boric, who at age 35 rode the wave of public discontent to be elected Chile’s youngest ever leader in late 2021.

Unlike the previous constitutional assembly, elected in May 2021, only candidates of political parties were allowed to stand.

The final committee must be made up of 25 men and 25 women.

There are no spots reserved for indigenous people, who make up about 13 per cent of the population.

In the constitutional assembly they were guaranteed 17 of the 155 seats.

According to polls, only 31 percent of Chileans are interested in the process for writing a new constitution.

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