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Mac Margolis

Chile’s Voters Open Pandora’s Box on New Charter

A crushing government defeat at the polls gives control of a constitutional rewrite to leftists and independents.

Now comes the hard part.

Now comes the hard part.

Photographer: Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Chile surprises again. When voters went to the polls on May 15-16 to say who will rewrite the national constitution, many analysts prophesied a victory for ideological equilibrium and moderate policy. Instead, Chile got an earthquake.

Legacy political parties and their reliable governing pact buckled. Contenders from the conservative ruling coalition captured just over a fifth (37 of 155 seats) of the constituent assembly seats. Center leftists, who have played tag team governing with the right for decades, fared even worse. While branded politicians tumbled, Chileans careened hard against the old guard, voting in radicals and anti-establishmentarians for the constituent assembly, mayor and, for the first time, for provincial governors formerly appointed by the president.