Chileans vote to draft a new constitution

Chileans poured into the country's main squares Sunday night after a majority voted to draft a new constitution. Over three-fourths of voters have chosen to scrap the country's dictatorship-era constitution in favor of a new charter written by citizens.

As votes were counted on live television, spontaneous parties broke out, drivers honked their horns, others banged pots and pans. It was a full-circle moment for protesters who gathered here just last year demanding social reforms. Many Chileans expressed hopes that the new charter will guarantee more equal rights to healthcare, pensions and education.

"If it were not for the brave young people who fought for us, no one would have gone out onto the street. I wanted this to happen for a long time and it happened and thanks to them! Today we win," said Juan Pablo Naranjo, a demonstrator at Sunday's celebrations.

Fireworks rose above a crowd of tens of thousands of jubilant people singing in unison as the word "rebirth" was beamed onto a tower above in Santiago's Plaza Italia. The flag of the country's indigenous Mapuche people was seen flown proudly, as they will seek greater recognition under the new charter.

President Sebastian Pinera, whose approval rating plummeted after protests escalated in 2019, said from now on they should unite behind a new text that can provide "a home for everyone."

"Today citizens and democracy have triumphed, today unity has prevailed over division and peace over violence. And this is a triumph for all Chileans who love democracy, unity and peace."

Four fifths of voters said they wanted the new constitution to be drafted by a specially-elected body of citizens, made up of half women and half men, over a mixed convention of lawmakers.

Members of a 155-seat constitutional convention will be voted in by April of next year. They will have up to a year to agree to a draft text, with proposals approved by a two-thirds majority. Chileans will then vote again on whether they accept the text or want to revert to the previous constitution.