Big Setback In Chile

Boric and his allies failed to bring the Chilean people along

At the end of 2021, Chileans resoundingly defeated a prominent neo-Nazi candidate for president, José Antonio Kast, and elected a young progressive activist, Gabriel Boric. The result was 4,620,890 (55.9%) to 3,650,088 (44.1%). There was every reason to believe that Chile would discard the fascist constitution promulgated by dictator Augusto Pinochet and replace it with a progressive one. Last night those hopes were shattered as the results of the national plebiscite, in which voting was mandatory, rolled in. In the end it looks like 61.9% voted to reject the document to just 38.1% who voted to approve it. Polling had predicted the new constitution would be rejected, though not by this big of a margin.

So what did they reject? NY Times correspondent Jack Nicas reported that “The proposed changes had looked to remake one of the most conservative countries in Latin America into one of the world’s most left-leaning societies, but Chileans decided that went too far… Chilean voters rejected a 170-page, 388-article proposal that would have legalized abortion, mandated universal health care, required gender parity in government, given Indigenous groups greater autonomy, empowered labor unions, strengthened regulations on mining and granted rights to nature and animals. In total, it would gave enshrined over 100 rights into Chile’s national charter, more than any other constitution in the world, including the right to housing, education, clean air, water, food, sanitation, internet access, retirement benefits, free legal advice and care ‘from birth to death.’ And it would have eliminated the Senate, strengthened regional governments and allowed Chilean presidents to run for a second consecutive term. The text included commitments to fight climate change and protect Chileans’ right to choose their own identity ‘in all its dimensions and manifestations, including sexual characteristics, gender identities and expressions.’”

The proposal’s sweeping ambition turned off many Chileans, including many who previously has voted to replace the current text. There was widespread uncertainty about its implications and cost, some of which was fueled by misleading information, including claims that it would have banned homeownership and that abortion would have been allowed in the ninth month of pregnancy.
Economists expected the proposed changes to cost from 9 percent to 14 percent of Chile’s $317 billion gross domestic product. The country has long been one of the lowest relative spenders on public services among major democracies.
Many voters were particularly opposed to language that defined Chile as a “plurinational” state, meaning 11 Indigenous groups, which account for nearly 13 percent of the population, could have been recognized as their own nations within the country, with their own governing structures and court systems. The proposal became a centerpiece of the campaign to reject the charter.
Many Chileans had also grown concerned about the constitutional convention that wrote the proposal, particularly its most left-wing members.
After the constitutional referendum in 2020, Chileans elected more than 150 people to write the new system of rules. Independents won more than half the seats, including lawyers, academics, journalists, two actors, a dentist, a mechanic, a chess master and a bevy of left-wing activists, including one who became famous for protesting in a Pikachu costume. Seventeen seats went to Indigenous people.
Leftists, who won more than two-thirds of the seats, took full control of the process; they did not need a single vote from conservative convention members to approve additions to the proposal.
As a result, said Richard Lagos, the center-left president of Chile from 2000 to 2006, the proposal was “extremely partisan.”

It sounds more like a college student government process than a legitimate national constitutional convention. The country overwhelmingly wants a new constitution, but not a politically-correct, one-sided, pie-in-the-sky joke. Today Boric will start the process by meeting with delegations from all the country’s political parties to map out a path forward. If the left wants to pass cutting edge policies they need to work to bring the public along, not try to impose a hard to understand agenda that can be interpreted as scary, unrealistic and dangerous..