AWhen Chile’s President Gabriel Boric took office over a year ago, one of his top priorities was a new and progressive constitution. The one from the time of the military dictatorship still applies today. Now the left-wing politician’s project has definitely shipwrecked. After the Chileans had clearly rejected an initial version of a new basic law drawn up by a left-leaning constitutional convention last year, they went to the polls again on Sunday to elect a new constituent assembly with 50 seats.
The result came as a shock to the government palace: the Republican Party of right-wing populist José Antonio Kast won more than 35 percent of the vote. A coalition of traditional conservative parties got just over 20 percent of the vote, while President Boric’s left-wing coalition got about 29 percent. The centrist parties got the rest of the votes. This means that Chile’s right is now taking the lead in the constitutional process. This will be resumed in June and accompanied by a panel of 24 experts. Articles of the Constitution must be approved by a three-fifths majority at the Constitutional Convention. The last word then has the people, who can accept or reject the finished text.
The election is a bitter defeat for the government, whose popularity has waned massively in recent months. President Boric is failing to find effective remedies for the struggling economy and rising crime rates that have become top concerns for Chileans. At the same time, Kast, who lost to Boric in the presidential election at the end of 2021, managed to demonstrate his power. “Today is the first day of a better future, a new beginning for Chile,” said Kast on Sunday evening. “Chile defeated a failed government.”
President Boric, who promised before the election that the government would intervene in the constitutional process, called for unity and warned the opposition, despite their majority, not to make the same mistakes as the last constitutional convention, which presented a text that was too one-sided and radical had. “This process must not be about retaliation, but about putting Chile first,” Boric said after the election results were announced.