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Breakdown of Chilean Constitution Crisis

Since 2019, Chile has been attempting to replace the existing Pinochet-era constitution adopted in 1980, and the most recent vote in December 2023 failed to gain a majority. Following anti-government demonstrations, mostly from left-wing students calling for measures to address inequality and the cost of living crisis, as well as social and political reforms, conservative President Sebastián Piñera agreed to begin re-writing the Chilean Constitution.

The first draft, written by a body of 155 elected members, proposed reforms to Chile's senate and formal recognition of the country's indigenous groups but was rejected by 62% of voters in September 2022. On December 17, 2023, the Chilean population voted on a second version of the Constitution. While President Gabriel Boric backed the first draft, he remained neutral on the second, stating before the vote that it would be Chile's last attempt at constitutional reform.

The second draft was rejected by 56% of voters, and criticized by left-wing opponents that it failed to protect indigenous rights, could have allowed restrictions to reproductive rights, and enshrined private sector participation in the provision of services such as health, education, and pensions. This vote will put constitutional reform on the back burner as leftist President Boric plans to focus on reforms.

The next election in Chile is in 2025. As voting is necessary, all 15 million Chilean eligible voters are believed to have voted on both proposed constitutions. While the first was rejected for being too progressive, as it was written by 155 delegates, most of whom were associated with social movements, not political parties, the second draft could not garner a majority since it was seen as too conservative, failing to address underlying demands for greater social equality and economic opportunity. Being unable to find a middle ground acceptable to conservative and more left-leaning voters has left Chile at an impasse. President Boric's decision to focus on more pressing matters and policies is understandable, as this constitutional crisis has been ongoing for years.

However, the existing Constitution does not align with present-day Chilean life.

"We've seen an elite who's not willing to let go of any power, and we've seen politicians who are not able to make political agreements, so drafting a new constitution is something that the political landscape is not able to do at this moment," Boris van de Spek, a Chile-based journalist commented.

The elections in 2025 will decide whether the discussion will opened up to debate once again. Professor of gender and politics at the Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), Jennifer Piscopo, contends, "This election will likely pit Jose Antonio Kast, leader of the Partido Republicano, against a centrist or center-left candidate. Suppose the right wins the presidency and/or enough seats in Congress. In that case, they likely will enjoy enough veto power over regular political reform that they see no need to reopen the constitutional conversation…If the left wins, they face more incentive to try – but will run up against voter fatigue, reducing the odds they can stir up sufficient enthusiasm or momentum for a third attempt."

Until then, Chileans must face a political system that does not align with their reality.

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