Jubilation as Chile votes to rewrite constitution

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BBC.COM-image copyright -Reuters

image captionThousands of people have gathered for celebrations in major Chilean cities

Chileans have voted overwhelmingly in support of rewriting their constitution, which dates to the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

With nearly 90% of the vote counted, 78% of people had voted “yes” in a referendum that was called after mass protests against inequality.

President Sebastian Piñera acknowledged the result and praised the peaceful vote.

He said it was “the beginning of a path that we must all walk together”.

A mass anti-government protest movement began in Chile a year ago. From the beginning one of the demonstrators’ key demands was that the country needed a new constitution to be able to fix deep inequalities in society.

“Until now, the constitution has divided us,” Mr Piñera said as people took to the streets in celebration. “From today we must all work together so that the new constitution is the great framework of unity, stability and the future.”

The referendum asked Chileans two questions – firstly, if they wanted a new constitution, and secondly, what kind of body they would want to draw it up.

A large majority have voted for the new constitution to be drafted by a convention made up entirely of elected citizens, as opposed to one that would also include lawmakers.

Thousands of people began holding celebrations in Santiago and other cities even before the result was clear. A yes vote had been expected.

Poverty levels have dropped dramatically in Chile over the last 20 years, but it remains one of the world’s most unequal nations. Many blame a system that has part-privatised services and utilities.

The current constitution was drawn up in 1980, after a referendum under the former military ruler, Gen Pinochet.

 

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