The World

New Plebiscite in Chile: business as usual

After two constitutional projects, the process of changing Chile's Magna Carta has come to an end without victory on either side.

Pablo Aguilera L.-December 18, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes

Manifesto rejecting constitutional reform in Chile in 2022©CNS photo/Ivan Alvarado, Reuters)

2020: in a plebiscite, 78 % of Chileans voted for a new Constitution.

2022 62 % of Chileans rejected the draft of the new political Constitution, which had been drafted by a majority of leftist convention members.

In May 2023, 50 councilors were elected (50 % women), the majority of whom were right-wing candidates. As of June 7, they began drafting a new text, which was approved by 3/5 of the councilors.

This was delivered to the public at the beginning of November.

The position of the Church

In mid-November, the Chilean Episcopal Conference gave its opinion to the public. They found no ethical objections to the text. Regarding human dignity and respect for life, they value the fact that it is specified that "the law protects the life of the unborn".

By stating "of whom" a more explicit recognition of the human person from the moment of conception is made, which means a more rigorous safeguard against eventual bills that seek to promote free abortion".

They also emphasized that in the field of education, "it is considered that families, through parents or guardians, have the preferential right and duty to educate their children or wards, to choose the type of education and its educational establishment".

Regarding religious freedom and conscientious objection, the text "develops the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which includes the freedom to adopt the religion or beliefs that each one prefers, to live according to them, and to transmit them, introducing, in addition, conscientious objection as a constitutional safeguard. (...) The proposal adds something new and decisive in this matter, such as the right of parents to transmit religious, ethical and moral values and to choose the religious education they decide for their children, also affirming that families have the right to create educational entities with their own educational projects, in accordance with their religious or moral convictions. (...) We consider that these norms on religious freedom are a contribution to the validity of this fundamental right, now made explicit in the Constitution".

While appreciating the aspects pointed out, the Bishops made it clear that they do not determine how Chileans should vote, whether they are Catholics or not.

New plebiscite

On December 17, Chileans voted in this mandatory plebiscite. At nightfall the Electoral Service delivered the results: the constitutional proposal was rejected by 55 % of the voters and approved by 45 %. This result consolidates the current Magna Carta, which dates back to 1980, but which has undergone several reforms (the main one was in 2005).

At first sight it would be a defeat for the center-right, which did not convince the citizens to approve its proposal. But it is also a defeat for the left, whose banner of struggle since 2019 was a change of Constitution and did not achieve it.

After two constitutional projects, this process is closed. There will be no new proposal to change the Chilean Constitution in the medium or long term. The Government of President Gabriel Boric will have to focus on the real problems of the population -economy, fight against crime, which has increased in the last years, sources of work, etc.- which are the great concern of the citizenship.

The authorPablo Aguilera L.

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