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Chileans favored independents to draft a new constitution

Chileans favored left-leaning independent candidates in electing an assembly that will draft a new constitution, replacing the one imposed in the 1980s during the military dictatorship.

In a major blow to the traditional political forces in Chile, weekend voting for the 155-member constitutional assembly gave 48 seats to independent candidates, most of them identified with leftist ideology, according to official results announced Monday.

The next biggest group was the governing center-right coalition, with 37 seats, and then the Communist Party with 28. Fifteen seats went to another leftist coalition, and 17 were reserved for Indigenous people.

“It is a disastrous result," Fuad Chaín, president of the center-left Christian Democratic Party, said Monday of the poor showing by Chile's political parties. Chaín was elected to be member of the new assembly.

Analysts and opinion polls suggested before the election the independent candidates would get only 10 to 12 seats.

Activist groups are campaigning for the new constitution include equality for women, enshrine protections for the environment and for Indigenous people, and provide a right to abortion. Conservatives hope to maintain a dominant private sector and rules making it hard to pass major reforms in the legislature.

But the various groups will have limitations on getting their full goals into the new constitution, because a two-thirds agreement is required.

“Getting the needed quorum will require quite a significant effort," said Rodrigo Espinoza, a teacher at the Diego Portales University.

Last year, nearly 80% of voters in a plebiscite supporting having an constitutional assembly draft a new charter for the nation following a year of protests.

The document that emerges from the assembly will go to a public vote in mid-2022. If rejected, the current constitution will remain in force.

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