Chile works towards new constitution

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet announces the start of a process to draw up a new constitution for the South American country.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has announced the launch of a process to draw up a new constitution for the country.

A new constitution to replace the one drawn up under military rule had been one of President Bachelet's main campaign pledges.
The process is expected to take several years.

The final draft will be put to the Chilean people in a referendum, Ms Bachelet said in a televised speech.

New times
Ms Bachelet said the current constitution "had its origins in the dictatorship and does not reflect the needs of our times or promote our democracy".

It came into force under Gen August Pinochet in 1980 and gave the executive wide-ranging powers such as dissolving the lower house of Congress.

It has since been amended.

But many people, including the president, have argued the document is illegitimate because it was drawn up by a small group of handpicked supporters of military rule.

President Bachelet said a campaign of "civic education" would start straight away.

It would be followed in March 2016 by "a process of dialogue with citizens in which everyone can take part".

The president said she expected to be handed the results of that dialogue in October 2016.

The proposals for the new constitution would then be put to Congress in 2017.

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