“To be reborn”. Projected on a tower of the Place d’Italie in Santiago, epicenter of the demonstrations since October 2019, these eight capital letters summarized the jubilation of thousands of Chileans gathered to celebrate the outcome of the referendum. Sunday, October 25, 78.3% of Chileans voted to draw up a new Constitution, instead of the current text drafted in 1980, under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
Despite the pandemic, gigantic queues have formed in front of the polling stations. With more than 50% participation, it is the most watched ballot since the end of compulsory voting in 2011.
Bury the neoliberal model
The massive participation and the unquestionable victory of the “Apruebo” camp (I approve) were in line with the expectations of the Chileans. The referendum was the only concession made by the ultra-conservative president Sebastian Piñera, to the monster demonstrations organized since October 2019.
First a high school students protest against the rise in the metro fare, the movement quickly turned into a rejection of the neoliberal model established by the Constitution. Up to 2 million inhabitants, of the 18 million in the Chili, took to the streets to denounce social and economic inequalities.
The protests, then slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic, left more than thirty dead and thousands injured. They followed a whole cycle of mobilisations against the all-out system of privatizations, from pensions to healthcare. by water. In 2006 and 2011, high school students and then students had already revolted to demand access to free public education.
A joint assembly
For the first time in the world, the assembly responsible for drafting the new Constitution will be joint. It will also integrate indigenous peoples, even if the conditions of their participation are not yet known.
The assembly will be exclusively composed of elected citizens. This is what nearly 79% of Chileans chose during the referendum, rejecting the option of a mixed assembly, half of parliamentarians.
The 155 members of the assembly, who will be elected in April 2021, will have six to nine months to draft a new text. A referendum will be organized in the second half of 2022, with a compulsory vote to approve or not the new Constitution. In a televised speech, the President wished the
unit of the country, when
the Constitution has divided us ”.
Until then, the thorny and polarized subjects of debate will pile up. Education, pensions, health, feminist struggles, rights of indigenous peoples, environment… The Chileans want to reshuffle the cards. After a year of revolts without the participation of any party, the referendum only marks the beginning of the political struggle.