By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – More Chileans went to the polls on Sunday than ever before, a total of just over 13 million. The only thing on the ballot was to Approve or Reject the newly drafted constitution. The very efficient vote counting and information system was virtually concluded under four hours after the polls closed. It showed Reject with 7,882,238 votes (61.86%) to Approve with 4,859,039 (38.14), with 99.97% of the polling places reporting.
While the pre-election polls had predicted a victory of the Reject option by 6 to 10 points many in the Approve camp felt the obligatory vote, and their campaign efforts, would bring out many voters, especially young people and women that would be inclined to support the new constitution that enshrined numerous rights previously non-existent. That proved just the opposite.
Early in the evening the Approve camp admitted their defeat as the initial returns appeared insurmountable. The percentages ended up remaining virtually the same throughout the evening. Vlado Morosevic a spokesperson for Approve stated: “We accept the results, as a country we deserve a new constitution that is accepted by the majority of the Chilean population.”
President Gabriel Boric, who voted in his hometown of Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile, had this to say when the results were apparent: “Today the people of Chile have spoken in a strong and clear manner,” reported El Mostrador.
Boric, who took office in March of this year, had played a key role in the campaign for a constituent assembly in 2020 and while a supporter of the Approve option, as promised stayed on the sidelines to not confuse his roll as president.
On Sunday evening he expressed his gratitude to the electoral authorities, the Police and Armed Forces, poll workers and watchers, and all the citizens who turned out for this crucial vote. “This September 4th the democratic Chilean state was strengthened… That’s how the world has seen and recognized a country that in its most difficult moments opts for dialogue and agreements to overcome the fissures and pain. And we, compatriots, should be very proud of that.”
“The effort made [to draft a new constitution] was not in vain, since this is how countries progress, learning from their experiences and when necessary, backtracking and searching for new paths,” he said.
Boric added: “An excessive approach, violence and intolerance with those who think differently should definitely be swept aside.” Such were aspects of the Constitutional Assembly discussions that received much criticism from the Reject camp.
The message from the Chilean people “is they were not satisfied with the draft Constitution that the Convention presented and decided to reject it overwhelmingly at the polls,” said Boric. This decision, he noted: “demands that our institutions and political figures work ardently, with more dialogue, with more respect and caring, until we arrive at a text that interprets all of us, gives confidence and unites us as a country.”
Boric then recalled: “Let’s not forget what brought us here, that discontent remains, and we can’t ignore it. Also, those of us who have always worked for this process of transformation, must be self-critical about our actions. Chileans have demanded a new opportunity for our meeting, and we must be up to that call,” he added.
In that light, Boric committed to doing everything in his power to build, along with the Congress and civil society, “a new constituent assembly plan that will produce a text that takes into account what’s been learned in this process, and better interpret the will of the vast majority of the citizenry.”
Boric said that starting Monday he will meet with the presidents of both chambers of parliament and other authorities to advance as fast as possible in that direction. Likewise, during the week, “we will conduct a round of conversations to gather the proposals of the different sectors committed to establishing a new Constituent Process.
The president confirmed that he had spoken with some figures of the Reject camp and beyond legitimate differences, he is convinced that there is a will for dialogue and gathering. “We can’t let time go by, nor get bogged down in never-ending controversies.”
“Therefore, I make an honest call to all the political forces to put Chile first, over any legitimate difference, and agree in a short time on a new process to draft a constitution. You can count on me to facilitate understanding, with Congress taking on a major role.”
Boric further noted that “the challenges to Chile will not end with the constitutional issue.” “We in the government have the obligation to attend the demands of the population in their daily lives.”
“I know people want answers and solutions to the insecurity, the violence in the South, the housing shortage, the rising cost of living, the lack of support for care giving, and the reactivation of our economy, the long waits at health facilities, improved education, and the low pensions. Today, Chile has shown itself to be demanding and believes in democracy. We all must be up to that mandate. That’s why I make a heartfelt call to the entire population, independent of which option they supported in today’s plebiscite, to work together in the building of a brighter future we all desire.”
“You know well that we when we act together it brings out the best in us… and that’s what I am inviting you to,” concluded Gabriel Boric.