Celebrations in Chile as voters back rewriting Constitution
People embrace as others gather to protest against Chile's government during a referendum on a new Chilean Constitution in Santiago, Chile on Sunday.
Al Jazeera News :
Tens of thousands of Chileans have taken to Santiago's main square in celebration after people across the country overwhelmingly backed re-writing Chile's dictatorship-era constitution that many see as the root cause of the country's social and economic inequalities.
In Santiago's Plaza Italia, the focus of the massive and often violent protests last year which sparked the demand for a new charter, fireworks rose above huge crowds of jubilant people singing in unison late on Sunday as the word "rebirth" was beamed onto a tower above.
With more than three-quarters of the votes counted in Sunday's referendum, 78.12 percent of voters had opted for a new constitution drafted by citizens. Many have expressed hopes that a new text will temper an unabashedly capitalist ethos with guarantees of more equal rights to healthcare, pensions and education.
"This triumph belongs to the people, it's thanks to everyone's efforts that we are at this moment of celebration," Daniel, 37, told Reuters News Agency in Santiago's Plaza Nunoa. "What makes me happiest is the participation of the youth, young people wanting to make changes."
Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said if the country had been divided by the protests and debate about whether to approve or reject plans for a new charter, from now on they should unite behind a new text that provided "a home for everyone".
People play instruments at Plaza Italia on the day Chileans vote in a referendum to decide whether the country should replace its 40-year-old constitution, written during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, in Santiago, Chile [Esteban Felix/AP]
"Until now, the constitution has divided us. From today, we must all work together so that the new constitution is the great framework of unity, stability and future," he said in a speech broadcast from his Moneda Palace surrounded by his cabinet.
The centre-right leader, whose popularity ratings plummeted to record lows during the unrest and have remained in the doldrums, spoke to those who wanted to keep the present constitution credited with making Chile one of Latin America's economic success stories.