The most important elections since the plebiscite that marked the end of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) or the elections that will establish the rules of the game for the next decades. These are some of the phrases that are said about the electoral day that will live Chile next weekend.
But, why so much expectation?
1- WHAT IS VOTED
Chile on May 15 and 16, faces four simultaneous elections in which 16,730 candidates participate: municipal and regional elections, in which mayors, councilors and governors will be chosen, and constituent elections, in which 155 candidates will be voted on who will write the future new Constitution.
More than 1,300 candidates are applying to be part of the Constitutional Convention, which will be made up of members of civil society, including activists from traditional and independent parties.
Its members will have nine months to present a new text, which may be extended for three more months. In this way, in mid-2022, Chile will experience a new plebiscite to approve or reject the new Constitution.
There are no surveys that anticipate the result of the Constituent Assembly due to its unprecedented nature, the large number of candidates and the difficulties in taking samples.
Regarding the municipal elections, Chileans must elect the mayors and councilors of 346 communes (municipalities), in addition to the governors of the 16 regions in which the country is divided, who will remain in office for four years.
2- PARITARIAN AND WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
One of the greatest achievements of the Chilean feminist movement was to make the Constitutional Convention a joint body. It is something unprecedented in the world and makes Chile the first country in the world to have a Magna Carta written by a balanced number of men and women.
Parity was a demand that was born in the streets, during the social protests that began in 2019 and in which women played a leading role, and soon it was introduced in the agendas of many parliamentarians who made it a reality through a constitutional reform .
In addition to women, indigenous peoples are also guaranteed their participation, for whom 17 of the 155 seats were reserved for the body.
Chile, where there are a dozen native peoples representing 12.8% of the national population, it is one of the few countries in Latin America that does not recognize indigenous peoples in its Constitution.
3- THE ORIGIN OF THE CONSTITUENT PROCESS
In October 2019, a wave of massive protests broke out in Chile, which began as a complaint against the rise in the price of the subway ticket and became a popular clamor for a more egalitarian socioeconomic model, which left some thirty dead and thousands of others. wounded.
In response to the riots, the possibility of drafting a new Constitution to replace the current one, inherited from Pinochet and considered by many as the origin of the great inequalities in the country for privatizing basic services such as water, health and pensions was raised.
The possibility of writing a new fundamental law materialized last October, with the celebration of a historic plebiscite that approved by an overwhelming majority (80%) to banish the current constitution.
4- THE FIRST GOVERNORS
For the first time since Chile returned to democracy, citizens will be able to elect the authorities of the 16 administrative regions into which the country is divided. Until now, the post of mayor existed, but it was appointed by the president himself and his autonomy was rather limited.
The great battle is centered on the Metropolitan Region, which is home to Santiago and where more than 8 million inhabitants live, although the Valparaíso region, where the country’s great ports and part of the agricultural industry are located, will also be very close.
This unprecedented election, however, will also be accompanied by the introduction of the figure of Government delegates, one for each region, who will be appointed by the Executive, and to date two bills that address competencies are still being processed in Parliament. and limits of each position.
The new regional governments will therefore take office amid uncertainty regarding their powers and budgetary autonomy.
5- THE CHALLENGE OF ABSTENTION
The big unknown is participation, which has not exceeded more than 50% since voting was no longer mandatory in 2012, with the exception of last October’s plebiscite (50.9%).
Experts indicate that the complexity of the elections and the wide electoral offer can play against and discourage voting, although voters will not take more than 4 minutes to vote, despite the number of ballots – in the October referendum it took a minute on average to vote.
The pandemic, which already leaves 1.3 million infected and approximately 27,000 dead and still keeps about 90% of the country in quarantine on weekends, will be the most determining factor.
If in October many older voters -the most participative- stayed at home for fear of contagion, it is expected that this weekend they will go out to vote en masse because they are already immunized.
Chile, with 19 million inhabitants, is one of the countries in the world with the highest percentage of the population vaccinated and close to 50% have already received at least one dose.
The elections, which were to be held in April and were postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in two days, Saturday and Sunday – something unprecedented in Latin America – precisely to avoid crowds and encourage people to attend to vote.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.