Chilean congressional council finalizes new draft constitution, again

By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda

SANTIAGO (Reuters) -For the second time in just as many years, Chile has a new proposed constitutional rewrite after the congressional council in charge of drafting it approved the final document on Monday.

The proposal was approved with 33 votes from the 50-member Constitutional Council, dominated by right-wing forces, a radical shift from the previous proposal that was drafted by left-wing and independent constituents and overwhelmingly rejected by voters last September.

Voters will take part in a mandatory referendum to approve or reject the new constitutional text on Dec. 17.

Public opinion on the latest process to revamp the country's decades-old constitution remain mixed, with large numbers circumspect.

According to the latest Cadem poll, 51% plan to vote against the new text, while 34% would approve it.

But the percentage of respondents who told Cadem that they would vote to approve it marks the highest figure since May.

"As we approach the plebiscite, the gap is closing, people are paying more attention, they are learning what the document is about," said political analyst Kenneth Bunker.

"My intuition is that the gap will continue to close and it will be a closer election than we anticipate today."

If the new constitution is rejected in December, the current text, which dates back to the military dictatorship of President Augusto Pinochet that ended in 1990, will remain.

The government of President Gabriel Boric has said it does not plan a third attempt, and 58% of polled voters said they are also against another rewrite attempt.

The pledge to revamp the South American country's constitution was the main political agreement reached following raucous and sometimes violent protests that played out in 2019.

While around 80% of Chileans voted to draft a new constitution in 2020, voters have grown wary following growing political polarization, economic stagnation and crime.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates)