The final draft of Chile’s new constitution was presented on Monday, which, if approved next September, will replace the current one drafted during General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1980. The drafting of the new constitution is seen as one of the most important signs of change in recent years in Chile, a country deeply scarred by the major anti-government protests of 2019. The draft’s 388 articles contain more safeguards for the environment, for women, for workers and for the indigenous peoples living in the country: however, they do not seem to have fully convinced who needs to vote for them.
The document was officially handed over on Monday to President Gabriel Boric, who was elected last December with the left-wing Apruebo Dignidad coalition. The ceremony took place in the building where the Constituent Assembly, the body of 154 deputies tasked with drafting the new constitution and composed of 77 women and 77 men, had met for a year voting were chosen.
The draft of the new constitution gives the state many powers in the provision of various services and expands the protection of social rights, especially in relation to health, education and housing policies. It strengthens the rights of workers, guarantees gender equality among the representatives of institutions, starting with the ministries, and provides for the recognition of indigenous peoples, who make up 13 percent of the approximately 18 million Chileans and who have been enshrined in the constitution since 1980 they are not even named. In addition, it establishes the universal right to water and nature’s right to be protected and respected.
Chileans will decide whether or not to accept the new constitution – which would be the first in the world to be drafted by a half-women body. A vote is scheduled for next September 4th. If the draft is rejected, the old constitution, which has been amended on a number of points over the years, remains in force.
Commenting on the new draft, Boric said that despite “legitimate disagreements” over the content of the document, Chileans “can be proud of having chosen more democracy, not less,” in what he described as “the moment of the deepest political, institutional and social crisis that the country has experienced in recent decades”.
However, there was no lack of criticism of the new document.
Some critics have disputed that the draft would include dissolving the Senate to replace it with a Chamber of Regions and establishing a separate judicial system dedicated to indigenous peoples. Others have criticized the composition of the Constituent Assembly, arguing that it does not really reflect the complexity of Chilean society: two-thirds of its MPs are leftists, while the parliament is practically half right-left.
On the other hand, articles about environmental protection have alarmed the mining sector, which accounts for about 12 percent of the country’s economy. For example, an article in the draft prohibits any mining activity near Chile’s glaciers, where some of the largest copper mines are located (Chile is the world’s first producer of copper and the second largest producer of lithium).
The decision to repeal the current constitution and write a new one was made in an October 2020 referendum, in which 78.12 percent of Chileans voted in favor of the option. But now there seem to be many doubts: According to a survey conducted in June by the analysis company Cadem, 51 percent of those polled would be willing to reject the new constitution, while only 34 would agree. In January, 56 percent of the people voted for a new constitution, 33 against.