Chileans have two months to review the new constitution before a mandatory referendum is held on September 4.
Chile’s new draft constitution was presented to President Gabriel Boric after a year-long process in which members of the Constituent Assembly debated and drafted a document that would replace the country’s Pinochet-era Magna Carta.
The new text, which will replace the constitution drafted during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, aims to establish new social rights.
It was drafted by the Constitutional Convention – a constituent assembly of 154 citizens, most of whom were politically independent, which will be dissolved exactly one year to the day after it begins work on July 4, 2021.
“We should be proud that we Chileans have chosen more democracy, not less, during the deepest crisis … in decades our country has endured,” said Boric, a left-wing former protest leader who was sworn into office in March at a ceremony in the capital Santiago.
He immediately signed a decree calling for a September 4 referendum, where voting will be mandatory in the deeply polarized country of 19 million.
“On this September 4th, it will again be the people who will have the last word about their fate,” said Boric also in a tweet. “Today begins a new phase in which everyone writes history.”
In the first of the 388 articles of the new constitution, Chile is described as a “social and democratic constitutional state” as well as “plurinational, intercultural and ecological”.
Chile “recognizes the dignity, freedom, substantive equality of human beings and their indissoluble relationship with nature as intrinsic and inalienable values,” according to the new constitution.
Chileans last year voted for members of the constitutional convention that would work to replace the Pinochet-era constitution that critics blamed for long-standing socioeconomic inequalities in the South American nation.
Demands for a new constitution grew out of mass protests in 2019 that erupted out of anger over rising living costs and other issues.
Chilean voters, fed up with the political status quo and pushing for systemic reforms, elected dozens of progressive, independent delegates to rewrite the new constitution – a surprise blow to conservative candidates who failed to secure a third of the seats, to veto proposals.
Divided equally between men and women, the constitutional convention also included 17 seats reserved for indigenous peoples, who make up around 13 percent of Chile’s population.
In addition to recognizing the diverse peoples that make up the Chilean nation, the new constitution grants a degree of autonomy to indigenous institutions, particularly in matters of the judiciary.
“We are very excited about this,” Gaspar Dominguez, vice-president of the Constituent Assembly, told Al Jazeera after the draft was finalized.
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Santiago on Monday, said the new constitution “is changing dramatically[s] the status quo in Chile.
“It is a feminist constitution that guarantees gender equality throughout the state system, including in the next congress. It also describes Chile as a plurinational country; It’s only the third country in the world to have that definition,” she said.
“For the indigenous people of this country, it would give them more land, more say, more autonomy – that’s very controversial. It is also the world’s first – one could say – ‘environmental constitution’ that specifically protects the environment.”
Boric has reiterated his support for the constitutional project several times in recent weeks, adding that the current document represents an “obstacle” to deep social reforms.
Despite this, several opinion polls suggest that the new constitution could still be rejected. With the full text yet to be released, many Chileans say they are unsure.