More than 14 million Chileans are allowed to go to the polls this Saturday (15) and Sunday (16), although nearly 60% of them are unsure of how many positions are up for grabs – there are some four.
A poll carried out by Ipsos between May 5 and 11, highlighted that only 43% of voters know that this weekend’s election involves the definition of 155 Constituent Assembly members, 345 mayors, 2,252 councilors and 16 regional governors. In all, there are 22,000 applicants for 2,768 positions.
Besides the lack of knowledge about how many positions to choose, a survey by the Cadem Institute also showed that only 52% of respondents declared their intention to vote, and only 46% said they were interested in the election – in Chile. , voting is not compulsory.
The number of decisions to be taken is one of the explanations of the experts for the sudden disinterest in the election, in contrast to the huge protests that began in October 2019 and called, in general, for reforms of the pension system, the education and access to health care, health and transport.
Another request was the elaboration of a new Constitution to replace the Charter of 1981, since the time of the military dictatorship (1973-1990). Thus, the main race of this vote will be the names that will write the document, after a referendum which, with the support of 78.28% of the voters, authorized the formation of the body.
There is no opinion poll on the electoral trend, but the fact that the right-wing parties organized themselves into one list – unlike the left and center-left legends, which have been broken down into four relationships distinct – promotes a more present presence, solidity of curators.
“This could be a drag on the reform agenda that motivated people to take to the streets in 2019,” says Claudia Heiss Bendersky, political scientist at the University of Chile. “The right knows well what it wants to block: the dismantling of the neoliberal system and the privatized pension system. The left, on the other hand, has a mosaic of interests without having discussed priorities.”
The academic adds that there is a clear gap between the protests of two years ago and the elections this weekend, because demanding radical change on the streets is very different from going through the political process itself. even. It also hampers, she said, the overlapping dispute over administrative posts and voter names, in addition to a presidential race on the horizon, which is polarizing discussions. “People are tired of party arguments,” Bendersky says.
In November, the country will choose the successor of Sebastián Piñera, whose popularity, 9%, mated to the worrying coronavirus situation that Chile still faces, contributes to the discouragement that the research figures reveal. Even though the country is one of the most vaccinated in the world, with nearly 46% of the population vaccinated with one dose and 38% with two, the number of cases only started to drop significantly a month ago. and the death toll has plateaued at around 100 deaths per day since March.
Therefore, this weekend’s election has been split into two days to avoid crowds.
“After a year of fighting and attrition with political power, followed by another year of pandemic maladministration, Chileans have grown weary. Today many are preoccupied with more everyday issues, with their most common problems. fundamentals, ”says Bendersky.
The diagnosis of the political scientist joins that of the independent candidate Karina Nohales, of the feminist collective 8M. For her, as Chileans still live with the restrictions imposed due to Covid, it is possible to feel the deterioration of the economy more, with a lack of work for the informal sector and a shortage of food in some areas. “These concerns become more important than the impetus of the Constituent Assembly,” he said. “If we are no longer taking to the streets as before, it is because conditions have deteriorated, so the priority is no longer politics, but daily bread.”
The dismay over the vote overshadows yet another important novelty: for the first time, regional governors will be elected – Chile is not a federal republic and, therefore, decisions are made from Santiago. “It’s a shame,” Bendersky laments, “because it is an achievement after years of debate”. “Now we will have regional decisions, regional policies, which has not happened before and which gives more legitimacy to policies, in addition to allowing the emergence of more regional leaders and more plurality.”
Another important aspect, this time in constitutional elections, is the fact that the representation is equal. There will be an equal number of men and women. There will also be 17 positions in the assembly for indigenous ethnic groups, which represent 12.8% of the population, one of the largest in Latin America: 7 will be Mapuche, 2 Aymaras and 1 for other indigenous peoples. that make up the country.
For Nohales, the change pleases feminists. “Of course, having a joint assembly does not mean a reformist assembly. There will also be conservative women. Therefore, issues such as reproductive rights will be more difficult to discuss, even if we are willing to submit an abortion bill. . But there are also cross-cutting issues, such as equal pay, the fight against domestic violence, which must move forward because these are not issues of the right or the left. “
Aymara candidate for one of the indigenous quota vacancies, Catalina Cortes says she defends the demands of those who took to the streets in 2019, such as social justice and access to health and education, but wants these problems to be also solved on the basis of the way in which indigenous peoples see them in the world, which, she explains, is linked to Sumak Kawsay, set of principles of “good living”. This point of view has already been incorporated in the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador in their most recent versions.
Another indigenous group that also arrives with a busy agenda are the Mapuche, more present in the south of Chile and who are divided between those who seek autonomy in their regions and those who want total independence vis-à-vis the country. State, or even getting involved in acts of violence. “Our challenge is to ensure that this quota is not only symbolic, but that it means the inclusion of our rights in the Charter,” said Mapuche leader Adan Romero Cheuquepil, also a candidate. “We want a plurinational state, the recognition of our culture, of our way of educating ourselves and of organizing ourselves. The seats in the Assembly must be more than a symbolic gesture of political marketing.”
Approval of agendas will be difficult, however, as the proposals will have to be accepted by two-thirds of the constituents, who will serve for two years. After this period, the new drafted letter will be put to a vote in a plebiscite. It is only after a possible popular seal that the Constitution of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet will be withdrawn.