In October 2020, nearly 80 percent of Chileans voted in favor of rewriting the country’s constitution. This past weekend, over 60 percent of Chileans voted to reject the constitutional draft put forward by the Constituent Assembly that had been elected in the meantime to do so. As result, the constitution adopted in 1980 by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet remains the law of the land—for now.
Many contextual factors played against the draft constitution, including the poor approval rating of President Gabriel Boric—who backed it—due to his handling of economic and security issues. However, this weekend’s result does not reflect a change in public opinion over the past two years regarding whether the current constitution should be reformed. The polling prior to the referendum demonstrated that a clear majority of the country still wants a new constitution, but a majority of the country also had important disagreements with the specific text of the draft delivered by the Constituent Assembly.
One critical reason for its rejection, in fact, was the growing belief in recent months that a third way could succeed. Though no official legal or constitutional path allows for a renewed constitutional rewrite after a draft has been rejected, that is almost certainly what the vast majority of Chilean society now wants. What started as a fringe movement that was dismissed by politicians in the early part of 2022 has been embraced in recent weeks by the elites of nearly every political party as they sought to keep up with public opinion.