More Chileans now reject new constitution than support it, polls say

Constitutional assembly members start debate of new Constitution in Santiago
Constitutional assembly members begin formally debating the motions for a new Constitution, in Santiago, Chile, February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo

SANTIAGO, April 4 (Reuters) - Chilean voters are cooling on a planned new constitution to replace the current Augusto Pinochet-era text, opinion polls on Monday showed, with those opposing the redraft surpassing those who plan to approve it for the first time.

A survey by pollster Cadem shows 46% of respondents would vote against the new text, which is still being drafted by an elected assembly and will face a nationwide referendum this year. That was 13 percentage points higher than in late January.

Support meanwhile has dropped from 56% to just 40% now, with a sharp recent decline due to voters losing confidence in the process and controversial planned changes to property rights, the structure of Congress and pension funds.

Chileans voted in 2020 to replace the Andean country's constitution that dates back to the military dictatorship of Pinochet. The market-oriented text is seen as having underpinned decades of growth but stoking huge inequality.

A second poll from Activa showed a similar trend with 35.8% of respondents planning to reject the new constitution, 32% supporting it and 32.2% unsure. That was a reverse from 37.7% in support and 31.2% against it earlier in March.

Reuters Graphics

Anger over inequality led to months-long violent protests in 2019, a turning point for the Latin American country that has long been heralded as a bastion of conservatism and free-market economics in the region.

The elected constitutional assembly has until July to present the new constitution that will then face a mandatory plebiscite towards the end of the year, with a yes or no option of whether to accept it or stick with the existing text.

The referendum poses a challenge for new progressive President Gabriel Boric, 36, who came into office in March pledging sweeping social and economic reforms.

Reporting by Fabián Andrés Cambero in Santiago Writing by Alexander Villegas Editing by Adam Jourdan, Marguerita Choy and Matthew Lewis

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