Chileans want better public education, health systems and more equality from the new constitution.

Chileans voted on Sunday to change the military dictatorship-era constitution in a referendum which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, 78 percent to be precise. 

The rewriting of Chile's constitution, which was drafted under the military rule of General Augusto Pinochet in 1980, is considered as a “rebirth” by the Chileans. 

Right-wing President Pinera agreed to hold a referendum on whether to change the constitution after month-long mass protests.

More than a million protesters took to the streets of the capital, Santiago, last year, asking for a change in governance. As a result, Pinera promised a referendum and planned it to be held in April, but it was delayed until October due to the pandemic.

Chileans responded to two questions in the referendum: whether they want a new constitution and what kind of committee they would want to see drafting it.

According to officials, 7.5 million citizens went to the polls. 

78 percent voted in favour of a new constitution, while 79 percent also voted for a constitutional committee body which will be totally elected by a popular vote.

People dismissed attendance of members of Congress to the committee.

What do Chileans want from the new constitution?

Many Chileans hope that a new text will temper an unabashedly capitalist ethos with guarantees of more equal rights to healthcare, pensions and education.

Despite being among the richest countries in South America, Chileans have been impoverished over the last two decades.

However, the country is among the world’s most unequal in terms of distribution of wealth.

People demand equality in fundamental social rights, especially the Mapuche indigenous population.

Privatised systems which provide healthcare, education and pensions are the leading issues for a new constitution. 

Powers of collective bargaining, water and land rights are other important points.

Members of a 155-seat constitutional convention will be voted in by April 2021 and have up to a year to agree on a draft text, with proposals approved by a two-thirds majority.

Currently, it is a clear victory for those who want a brand new and fresh start. However, this is only the first step in the process. 

In 1998, Chileans also voted “no” to Pinochet extending his rule for another eight years. Thanks to the referendum, Pinochet had to step down from the presidency in 1990.

Source: TRT World