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Chileans Head to Polls Over Drafting of New Constitution

Chileans are poised to vote for a new constitution as they head to the polls Sunday.

While the current constitution, which dates to Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, has helped Chile establish itself as one of the region’s most stable and successful economies, many in the country say they feel left out.

Dissatisfaction has led to violent protests, starting last year with massive violence over a transit fare hike that left 26 dead, CNN reported. More recently, churches have been burned and hundreds have been arrested in widespread demonstrations.

A new constitution, to be written by an elected citizen’s body, has been the main demand of the protesters, who say the current governing document favors private interests and gives disproportionate access to education and health care.

Opponents of the new constitution say changing a document that has favored Chile’s economic success is a “leap into the void,” Reuters reported.

Analysts say a new constitution could be more inclusive, but that promised social policies might not be able to be supported economically.

Alejandro Werner, IMF Western Hemisphere director, told Reuters on Thursday a new constitution could usher in "a new era in which the main elements that generated the Chilean success story ... are maintained in terms of economic growth, but complemented by a social inclusion agenda."

A potential risk, he said was "a multiplicity of social policies without macroeconomic support."

Sunday’s vote would decide not only if Chile would get a new constitution, but who would write it. According to CNN, a constitutional assembly would be chosen in April 2021 during municipal and regional elections. A new constitution would take more than a year to write, CNN reported.

Polls currently show two-thirds of Chileans support a new constitution, Reuters reported.

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