Chile’s constitutional referendum

It seems Chile’s voters are quite decisively rejecting the proposed new constitution. Turnout was high.

Such a result would be quite an indictment of the entire process. Others may know better than I would, but I would imagine it is unusual in a democracy for a constitutional-replacement project to result in failure at its final stage. The constituent assembly evidently did a poor job at looking down the game tree and discerning what the public would accept.

In an earlier thread, there has been a discussion ongoing about the constitution, and a link to the draft (both Spanish and English).

8 thoughts on “Chile’s constitutional referendum

  1. The two cases I can think of of new constitutions being rejected are Zimbabwe 2000 and Kenya 2005, although I’m sure there are more depending on how you define “new”. The Chilean process is unlike those two in the sense that the Convention was directly elected, was not a tool of the executive (at least under Pinera), and followed a fairly counter-majoritarian process given that decisions in the Convention were made by a 2/3 majority. I think this probably reflects the fact that the election to the Constitutional Convention was conducted towards the end of the term of a very unpopular centre-right president, and as such the centre-right was deprived of a blocking share of seats they would have won in normal circumstances. If you apply the Votes from Seats formula for presidential party vote share in midterm elections to the 2021 Constituent Assembly election, you get a predicted vote of 22% for Chile Vamos, which is only slightly more than the 20% they actually got.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Voter turnout yesterday – 86% in Chile itself (and 61.2% among expatriates) – was boosted by the one-time re-introduction of compulsory voting, but it does not appear to have helped Boric’s government one least bit. As a percentage of registered voters, the 32% share for Approve correlated very strongly at the commune level (0.96) with Boric’s 30.7% 2021 runoff share of registered voters, while the turnout increase correlated almost just as strongly (0.92) with the increase between Kast’s 2021 runoff share of 24.3% among registered voters and yesterday’s Reject vote, which reached an absolute majority of 52.1% of registered voters; Kast’s vote also had a fairly strong correlation of 0.75 with the Reject vote.

    I’m also minded of Italy’s 2016 constitutional referendum, which while not a wholesale replacement of the country’s 1946 constitution, sought to amend it significantly, particularly changing the composition and powers of the Senate – not unlike Chile’s failed proposed constitution – but was also rejected by voters by a similarly large margin.

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    • Yes, the Italy 2016 referendum is a good example. If I were trying to draw a good comparison set, I would probably want to include cases that were less than full replacements, but also more significant than the bulk of referendums that occur on constitutional amendments in countries that have these.

      Making a valid comparison set would be challenging, though.


  3. I know this is off-topic but if anyone can make sense of this situation for me, it’s one of you all.
    The Alaska ranked choice ‘primary’ for its single congressional seat was also a ‘special’ election for the remainder of the
    term of Don Young, who died months ago? The four top vote-getters were supposed to move on to the general election in
    November (without any ranking) and then the top four, using the same results, were to be subjected to the ranked choice
    process until a majority winner was found? Oh yeah, and then the fourth place finisher dropped out of the running and the
    fifth place finisher wasn’t advanced, they decided to just go ahead with the three remaining candidates? Have I got this right factually so far? I just can’t think of another similar instance of ‘two elections in one’. Can you help, because the media hasn’t?


  4. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    The Batavian Revolution established a National Assembly which was to produced a draft constitution for the Netherlands. The National Assembly was divided among chiefly divided among federalists and unitarists. It produced a constitution which was somewhat of a compromise between the two; it was also notoriously long and contained a great deal of provisions usually thought of as belonging in regular legislation. It was rejected at a referendum by almost 4 to 1. The next year a coup d’etat by the French-backed unitarists ensured the next draft would be something less of a compromise. That draft was put to a referendum where federalists would not be allowed to vote and was ratified by over 90% of voters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Famously the first attempted constitution for the French Fourth Republic was rejected as well, although with a significantly smaller margin.


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