SANTIAGO, Chile — On Monday, President Gabriel Boric received the formal draft of a proposed constitution meant to replace the charter imposed by a military dictatorship 41 years ago and usher in fundamental changes for Chile.
Chileans will vote in a plebiscite in September on whether to adopt the charter, which was drafted by a Constitutional Convention elected last year.
“This September 4th, the people will once again have the final say on their destiny,” Boric wrote on Twitter.
Chile is described as a “social and democratic state” as well as “plurinational, intercultural, and ecological” in the first article of the draft. The document acknowledges the existence of 11 Indigenous groups, which account for 12.8% of the country’s 19 million inhabitants.
The draft would call for a new public health care system as well as a process to return land to Indigenous peoples. It also establishes new rights for men and women, such as the right to “adequate and dignified housing” and equal pay for equal work.
Mara Elisa Quinteros, the convention’s president, presented the proposal, which includes 388 articles, to Boric in a formal ceremony. Boric then issued a decree establishing the date for the plebiscite, in which Chileans must vote.
“It is an honor for me to lead this historic moment,” Quinteros said.
More than three-quarters of Chilean voters called for a new constitution in a 2020 referendum, but the ceremonial handover of the draft comes at a time when people appear to be growing skeptical of the convention’s work.
Polls at the start of the year indicated that a clear majority planned to vote in favor of the new constitution, but surveys since April have revealed a significant shift in opinion, with those opposed to the new document appearing to be ahead.
Analysts believe that the arrogant attitude of some Constitutional Convention delegates, rather than the content of the proposal, has soured Chileans.
The presidency’s minister, Giorgio Jackson, alluded to this circumstance by saying, “We have seen a very bad evaluation of the process.”
Boric also urged Chileans not to view the plebescite as a referendum on his government during his speech on Monday. The September election “is not, and should not be, a referendum on the government.” “It’s about Chile’s future and destiny,” he said.
Despite the fact that Boric was sworn in with a high approval rating less than four months ago, recent polls show Chileans growing increasingly dissatisfied with his administration amid an increase in crime and high inflation.
The new document’s presentation coincides with the dissolution of the Constitutional Convention a year to the day after it was established.
If the draft is rejected in the plebiscite, the current constitution, written during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1990, will remain in force, despite widespread agreement that the country requires a new charter.
If the document is approved by a majority vote, a process that will take years to complete will begin. To implement its requirements, Congress would need to pass new legislation.