© Reuters. A citizen votes at a polling station during elections for a new assembly to draft the constitution, at the Estadio Nacional, in Santiago, Chile April 7, 2023. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s right-wing parties are set to win a majority in a vote on Sunday to elect councilors to draft a new constitution, marking a step change from a progressive majority that drafted a failed first constitutional rewrite.
With 90.68% of the vote, the Republican Party of Chile, led by former conservative presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast, is in the lead with 35.53% of the vote.
A separate coalition of traditional right-wing parties won 21.20% of the vote, while President Gabriel Boric’s left-wing coalition won 28.34%. The centrist parties won the rest of the votes.
“Today is the first day of a better future, a new beginning for Chile,” Kast, who lost to Boric in 2021, said during a speech in Santiago. “Chile has overcome a failing government.”
The final results will determine the composition of a 50-seat Constitutional Council which will be responsible for drafting a new constitution. Articles will need a three-fifths majority to be approved.
It is the latest step in a years-long effort to revise the country’s dictatorship-era text after nearly 80% of Chileans voted to draft a new constitution in 2020 following violent protests against inequality.
Constitutional advisers elected on Sunday will begin drafting a new constitution in June based on a draft written by 24 constitutional experts appointed by Congress in March. Voters will then approve or reject the new proposal in December.
The first rewrite was drafted by largely independent and left-leaning voters and it focused on social benefits, environmental rights, gender parity and Indigenous rights.
It was considered one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, but many voters found it too polarizing and the process was mired in controversy.
Boric, who took office last March, came to power on a wave of optimism surrounding reform, but his approval ratings have since plummeted as a struggling economy and rising crime have become major concerns voters.
Boric also suffered a political defeat after supporting the first rewrite, which was rejected by nearly 62% of voters. The president has since distanced himself from the process but pledged to support it.
“The government will not meddle in the process and will respect the autonomy of the entity in its deliberations,” Boric told reporters on Sunday morning after the vote, adding that the government would act as a guarantor and support the demands of the new council. .
Boric also called for political unity, asking councilors “not to think about the next election, but about the next generation.”
“This time there is no margin for error,” Boric said.