SANTIAGO - Chileans began voting Sunday on whether to adopt a new constitution that aims to shift its market-driven society into one that is more welfare-based, while enacting broad institutional reforms.

Although Chileans previously voted in droves for a rewrite of the current constitution -- adopted in 1980 during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship -- opinion polls suggest the new text will be rejected.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (1200 GMT), with long lines of voters gathered in various parts of the country.

Social upheaval that began in 2019 as tens of thousands of people demanded a more equitable society provided the impulse to overhaul the constitution, but several clauses of the 388-article proposed draft have proved controversial. “I will reject it because it was a constitution that started badly,” Maria Angelica Ebnes, a 66-year-old homemaker, told AFP in Santiago.

“It was forced, through violence.”In October 2019, protests sprung up mostly in the capital led by students initially angered by a proposed metro fare hike. Those demonstrations spiraled into wider discontent with the country’s neoliberal economic system as well as growing inequality. Although polls predict the new constitution will be rejected, those in favor are still holding out hope, not least because of what they see on the streets.