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Chile: Far-right party on top in constitution rewrite vote

May 8, 2023

The far-right opposition Republican Party is set to take almost half of the seats on a committee to rewrite Chile's constitution. Its leader has previously expressed kinship with Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.

Jose Antonio Kast waving the Chilean flag
Jose Antonio Kast's far-right Republican Party came out on top in the vote on SundayImage: Esteban Felix/AP/dpa

A far-right party came first in an election on Sunday to choose 50 members of a committee that will rewrite Chile's constitution.

The Republican Party led with 35% of the vote, equating to around 22 seats on the committee.

The party opposes the longstanding effort to change Chile's constitution, which was imposed in 1980 during the right-ring dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

"Today is the first day of a better future, a new start for Chile," said the party's leader Jose Antonio Kast, who has previously kinship with other populist conservative leaders such as former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former US President Donald Trump.

"Chile has defeated a failed government," he said.

How did other parties fare?

In addition to the Republican Party's victory, the traditional right-wing parties of the Safe Chile coalition also won 21% of the vote, corresponding to around 11 seats on the committee.

Unity for Chile, a coalition of left-wing parties supported by President Gabriel Boric, finished with 29% of the vote, or 17 committee members.

The remainder of the votes, around a fifth of all ballots cast, were either void or blank. Around 80% of eligible voters turned out on Sunday.

Boric warns against political 'vendettas'

Sunday's election was held after a previous draft for the new constitution — which was considered one of the most progressive governing documents in the world for enshrining environmental protection, women's rights and the rights of Indigenous people — was strongly rejected by voters in a referendum last year.

"The government won't meddle with the process and will respect the entity's autonomy in its deliberation," said Boric, Chile's left-wing president, after casting his vote.

Gabriel Boric casting his ballot
Chilean President Gabriel Boric said the government would respect the autonomy of the newly-elected committeeImage: Andres Poblete/AP/picture alliance

After the results became clear, Boric urged right-wing parties to learn from the previous failed attempt to rewrite the constitution.

"I want to invite the Republican Party, that's won an unquestionable majority, to not make the same mistakes we made," he said.

"This process can't be about vendettas, but putting Chile first."

The final committee, which must be made up of 25 men and 25 women, all from political parties, will begin its work in June.

zc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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