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Common sense prevails as Chileans reject new constitution

for For the past three years, people in Chile, one of Latin America’s most successful economies, appear to be shifting to the left. In October 2019, mass protests over inequality shaken the country’s image as a haven of stability. A year later, Chileans voted in a referendum for an elected assembly to rewrite the constitution, which was first adopted in 1980 under a military dictatorship but has since been amended nearly 60 times. Then in December, they elected Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old leftist with a beard and tattoos, to be president in a coalition with the Communist Party’s ruling coalition.

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Now they seem to have had enough. In a referendum on Sept. 4, 62 percent of voters rejected the constitution enacted by the assembly. Turnout was high at 86%. None of Chile’s 16 regions have ratified it. Opinion polls for months had suggested the charter would be voted down. But no one expected a 24-point gap. The scale of the defeat was a blow to Mr Borrick, who supported the constitution-drafting process.

The results were truly extraordinary. Of the 179 referendums held around the world on a new constitution between 1789 and 2016, according to two constitutional scholars, Zachary Elkins and Alexander Hudson, 94% accepted.

Much of the blame for the failure lies with the convention itself. Elections to select its 155 members were held last May. Many older voters abstained because of the pandemic. Turnout was just 43%. More than two-thirds of those elected were outside mainstream political parties. They included many political newcomers and activists from the far left.

They quickly alienated ordinary centrist Chilean voters. One member cheered that the left “will have a big deal and everyone else has to join us”. A far-left member has quit after he was found to have lied about having cancer. Another voted in the shower and was asked to turn off his camera. “People think: if the artist is like this, then the work may also have major flaws,” said Cristián Valdivieso, a pollster for Criteria. That view was reinforced during a recent push for a “yes” vote, in which a drag queen pulled the flag out of his rectum while his bandmates urged viewers to “give up Chile”.

The document presented to voters was fraught with controversy. With 388 articles, the constitution is one of the longest in the world. It contains over 100 rights, more than any other charter. Chileans will enjoy everything from the odd – like “culturally appropriate” food and “digital disconnect” – to the disruptive, including unions’ unfettered right to strike. It would weaken property laws, weaken the House of Lords and create self-governing territories for indigenous peoples. Economists estimate this would increase government spending by a third to a half — or as much as 14 percent gross domestic product.

Now that the text has been buried, the question turns to the fate of the ruling coalition. The share of people who say they disapprove of Mr Borrick has risen from 20% in March when he took office to 56% today. The two are seen as closely intertwined, despite his government’s attempts to distance itself from the work of the Assembly ahead of the referendum. Mr Boric’s approval ratings have fallen as support for the agency has rapidly declined. On September 6, the government announced a cabinet reshuffle. Several young faces with close ties to the president walked out. For most of the past three decades, they have been replaced by veterans of centre-left parties.

Even so, the government will remain weak. Mr Borric’s government has delayed a sweeping overhaul of Chile’s pension and health care systems while it waits for what the constitution will allow. Opinion polls show a majority of Chileans still want a new charter, and they want another convention to write a second draft. While the details of the pact have been hammered out in Congress, Mr Bowrick will struggle to get his agenda started.

A tax bill moving through the legislature that seeks to increase taxes by 4% gross domestic product Pushing up mining royalties by 2026 may see some moderation. The health care bill that the government hoped to introduce in October may now be delayed. The government will have to shift focus. Chileans care about crime and inflation, not pensions and health care, as they did when protests broke out in 2019. Such a change in tactics could upset leftists who support the coalition government, including within Mr Borik’s own party. On the day the cabinet reforms were announced, schoolchildren in San Diego protested the failure of the constitution.

If starting a new convention, it will probably be gentler than the first one. The opposition will try to make it more difficult for independent candidates to stand, and to keep the process going for six months instead of a year. “It was the Congress’ impulse to rebuild the country that led to the failure of the process, and we need to avoid that,” said Javier Macaya, leader of one of Chile’s largest right-wing parties.

Meanwhile, the economy will continue to deteriorate. Amid a tough global environment, weaker copper prices and the removal of pandemic-era stimulus, brain-computer interface, a bank predicts a recession will begin this year.it says gross domestic product It will contract by 1.2% by 2023. The market rebounded after the draft charter was rejected. But Jay Truesdale of political risk consultancy Veracity Worldwide believes uncertainty over the new constitution will lead investors to take a “wait and see approach”. It bodes badly for Mr Borrick, who has only been in the job for six months. He will need his new centrist buddies to help him break free from this stereotype.

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