International

Overwhelming majority for reform: Chileans vote constitution away from Pinochet dictatorship – politics

Chile should get a new constitution. A corresponding question answered in a referendum on Sunday after nearly 94 percent of polling stations counted about 78 percent of voters as “yes.”

14.8 million citizens of the South American country were called upon to decide whether to replace the current 1980 constitution, dating back to the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). This was one of the main demands of the protesters who took to the streets against the government for weeks about a year ago.

Conservative President Sebastián Piñera spoke after polling stations closed in the evening (local time) in a speech about a victory for democracy and unity. “So far, the constitution has divided us,” said the 70-year-old. Thousands of people celebrated peacefully in Plaza Italia in the capital, Santiago, which many have called “Plaza de la Dignidad” (Place of Dignity) since the protests, and in central squares in other cities.

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The referendum also decided on a second question: whether a constituent assembly should consist entirely of deputies elected in April – half men and half women – or whether half of the body should consist of parliamentarians. About 79 percent of the voters chose the first option. The assembly must submit a draft after one year at the latest, on which the citizens vote again.

The current constitution has always been criticized for its authoritarian origins, the strong pooling of powers in the central government and the limited influence of the citizens. Proponents of a new constitution now want to strengthen the social role of the state, include basic rights to work, health, education and drinking water, and bring about the recognition of indigenous peoples. The referendum was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic; it was originally scheduled for April. (dpa)

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