Chile announced yesterday it will stage a referendum to replace the country’s dictatorship-era constitution -- a key demand of protesters after nearly a month of sometimes violent civil unrest.
The current charter, in force since 1980 and enacted by the former military junta of Augusto Pinochet, has been changed numerous times in the years since.
But it does not establish the state’s responsibility to provide education and healthcare -- two demands made by millions of Chileans who have taken to the streets.
Lawmakers in Chile’s National Congress agreed early yesterday to hold the plebiscite in April 2020 after hours of intense negotiations between the governing coalition and opposition parties.
“This agreement is a first step, but it is a historic and fundamental first step to start building our new social pact, and in this the citizenry will have a leading role,” said Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel.
The referendum will ask voters whether the constitution should be replaced and if so, how a new charter should be drafted, Senate president Jaime Quintana said.
It will propose three different models for a body to devise a new constitution, made up of either fully elected representatives, political appointees or an equal mix of both.
If elections to the body are needed, they will be held in October 2020 to coincide with regional and municipal ballots.
“We are happy to have been able to participate in an agreement that defeats violence,” said Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, leader of the right-wing Independent Democratic Union, the largest party in President Sebastian Pinera’s governing coalition.