When Chile's President Gabriel Boric took office just over a year ago, one of his top priorities was a new and progressive constitution. The one from the time of the military dictatorship is still valid today. Now the project of the left-wing politician has definitely been shipwrecked. After last year's clear rejection of a first version of a new constitution drawn up by a left-leaning constitutional convention, Chileans went to the polls again on Sunday to elect a new constituent assembly with 50 seats.

Tjerk Brühwiller

Correspondent for Latin America based in São Paulo.

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The result came as a shock to the government palace: the Republican Party of right-wing populist José Antonio Kast won more than 35 percent of the vote. A coalition of traditional conservative parties received just over 20 percent of the vote, while President Boric's left-wing coalition received about 29 percent. The rest of the votes went to the centrist parties. This means that Chile's right is now taking the lead in the constituent process. This will be resumed in June and accompanied by a panel of 24 experts. Articles of the Constitution must be adopted by the Constitutional Convention by a three-fifths majority. The people then have the last word, who can accept or reject the finished text.

The election is a bitter defeat for the government, whose popularity has declined massively in recent months. President Boric is unable to find effective remedies for the ailing economy and rising crime that have become Chileans' main concerns. At the same time, Kast, who lost to Boric in the presidential election at the end of 2021, has succeeded in demonstrating power. "Today is the first day of a better future, a new beginning for Chile," Kast said on Sunday evening. "Chile has defeated a failed government."

President Boric, who had promised before the election that the government would intervene in the constitutional process, called for unity and warned the opposition, despite its majority, not to make the same mistakes as the last constitutional convention, which presented a text that was too one-sided and radical. "This process must not be about retaliation, but about putting Chile first," Boric said after the election results were announced.