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Photo: Fotomovimiento / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Photo: Fotomovimiento / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

After a year of protests against Chile's right wing government, a decisive majority have voted to replace the constitution in a major victory for the left

Celebrations have erupted across Chile as voters overwhelmingly elected to rip up the country’s constitution, imposed in 1980 by Augusto Pinochet’s far-right dictatorship.

A year of mass protests against the current president, Sebastián Piñera, and his right-wing government’s policies have culminated in a decisive 78% vote for change, prompting jubilation across Chile.

The protests, organised by a broad coalition of activists, demanded a conclusive end to Pinochet’s constitution which maintained crippling social and economic inequality for four decades.

Piñera initially tried to ride the protests but was soon embarrassingly forced to agree to a referendum, originally scheduled for April 2020 but moved to October due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

As well as voting on whether to replace the constitution, the referendum also included a vote on whether the new constitution should be drafted by ordinary citizens or a body consisting of both politicians and citizens. The majority of Chileans voted for the former.

The specially elected assembly will be an equal split of women and men and will be voted for in April 2021. After a draft text is complete, the new constitution will be put to another referendum, asking Chileans to choose between adopting it or restoring the old constitution.

This represents an incredible achievement for Chilean protesters, finally abolishing the unjust laws introduced by Pinochet and sustained by numerous successors over four decades. This is a long-awaited victory for the oppressed, but there is more work to be done.

President Piñera has naturally appeared conciliatory and called for unity, but it is vital Chileans continue to call out his hypocrisy, oppose his right-wing policies and demand 2021’s presidential election is brought forward.

Meanwhile, the momentum built the by the protests and referendum result must be sustained to ensure the new Chilean constitution increases democratic freedoms, eradicates inequality and replaces the country’s broken health and education systems.

The people of Chile have proved that popular protest can force historic change; they must now keep fighting to drive out the right and secure the progressive future they want.

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