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    Chile expected to reject overhaul of dictatorship-era constitution

    SANTIAGO (AFP) – Chileans began voting yesterday on whether to adopt a new constitution that aims to shift its market-driven society into one that is more welfare-based, while enacting broad institutional reforms.

    Although Chileans previously voted in droves for a rewrite of the current constitution – adopted in 1980 during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship – opinion polls suggest the new text will be rejected.

    Polling stations opened at 8am, with long lines of voters gathered in various parts of the country.

    Social upheaval that began in 2019 as tens of thousands of people demanded a more equitable society provided the impulse to overhaul the constitution, but several clauses of the 388-article proposed draft have proved controversial.

    “I will reject it because it was a constitution that started badly,” Maria Angelica Ebnes, a 66-year-old homemaker, told AFP in Santiago.

    “It was forced, through violence.”

    Voters at a polling station in Santiago. PHOTO: AFP

    In October 2019, protests sprung up mostly in the capital led by students initially angered by a proposed metro fare hike.

    Those demonstrations spiralled into wider discontent with the country’s neo-liberal economic system as well as growing inequality.

    Although polls predict the new constitution will be rejected, those in favour are still holding out hope, not least because of what they see on the streets.

    On Thursday night, an estimated 500,000 people turned out for the official closing of the “approve” campaign in Santiago, whereas no more than 500 people did so for the “reject” gathering.

    “People will go out to vote en masse and the polls will be wrong once again,” said legislator in the ruling coalition of Boric Juan Carlos Latorre, who is a leftist who supports the new text.

    Over 15 million Chileans are eligible to vote in the compulsory referendum.

    Chief among their concerns is the prominence given to the country’s Indigenous peoples, who make up close to 13 per cent of the 19 million population.

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